Buffalo Sabres 2012-2013 NHL Preview:
The Buffalo Sabres had high hopes entering the 2011-12 season, but fell to 14th place in the Eastern Conference by the All-Star Break. Although the team was able to maintain a late-season surge and climb into the last playoff spot, they ultimately lost a tiebreaker to the Washington Capitals and finished the season with a 39-32-11 record. Heading into the 2012-13 season, the Sabres have experienced a few changes offensively and defensively, but the core of the team is still intact and ready to show that their disappointing year was just an aberration.
Offensively, the Sabres will have to overcome the loss of center Derek Roy, but still have very talented wingers in Jason Pominville and Thomas Vanek. Pominville led the Sabres in goals, assists and points during the 2011-12 season, so he figures to be one of the most important role players in the Sabres' offense. Cody Hodgson is expected to be the top center for the Sabres this year, but new additions like Steve Ott, Mikhail Grigorenko and Zemgus Girgensons could vie for playing time as well. An improvement in depth is one of the Sabres' brightest spots heading into the new season, which should keep the lines fresh and improve the team's scoring attack.
On defense, the Sabres need to see a marked improvement from defenseman Tyler Myers, but should benefit from stronger play on the blue line from Christian Ehrloff and Jordan Leopold. The team also has great depth behind them with Robyn Regehr and Andrej Sekera. Regehr lead the team with 112 blocked shots, and was one of the most important penalty kill players on the roster during last season. By far, the most important player on the Sabres' squad is goaltender Ryan Miller, who has proven to be one of the best goalies in the NHL. While Miller was injured during the 2011-12 season, his backup Jhonas Enroth gained valuable playing time which could pay off this year.
The Sabres will open up the 2012-13 season against the Pittsburgh Penguins at home, and luckily for them, they will play all of last year's Western Conference playoff teams at home as well. Other highlights include a New Year's Eve game against their archrival, the Ottawa Senators, and a Super Bowl Sunday showdown against the St. Louis Blues. Although the Sabres have undergone only a few changes during the offseason, they are hoping that their younger players can take the next step and get the team back into the Stanley Cup playoffs.
BUFFALO SABRES EXPERIENCE:
Location: Buffalo, New York
Stadium: First Niagara Center
Conference: Eastern Conference
Division: Northeast Division
Buffalo Sabres Stanley Cup Titles: 0
Buffalo Sabres Conference Championships: 3
Notable Players: Tim Horton, Gilbert Perreault, Dale Hawerchuk, Pat LaFontaine
The Buffalo Sabres franchise was founded in 1970 as an expansion team alongside the Vancouver Canucks. The Sabres' history began well with the exceptional play of the Gilbert Perreault, Rick Martin, and Rene Robert - collectively known as the “French Connection”. Buffalo Sabres would score prolifically each season but failed to win the Stanley Cup, though they did compete for it in 1975. The 1990's saw a coaching change and ownership change that would crate tension within the team and its management, leading to the firing of the NHL's coach of the year and one of the most successful GMs in the league. The Buffalo Sabres would return to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1999, but lost to Dallas. The Sabres would then lose its ownership to criminal activity and fall to last place in the league. New owners and recent success, however, have brought back hockey excitement to Buffalo!
The Buffalo Sabres play their home games at the First Niagara Center, previously HSBC Arena, in Buffalo, New York. The arena holds nearly 19,000 spectators for hockey games. Along with the Buffalo Sabres improved success came a new state-of-the-art scoreboard with high definition video screens for the arena. A game at First Niagara Center this season will be a fantastic experience for any hockey fan. Buffalo fans have managed to weather some of the toughest disappointments in sports, and will be rooting strong for the Sabres to get back to the conference finals and beyond. Buy Buffalo Sabres tickets and see whether they can rise to the top of the NHL!