Winnipeg Jets @ Buffalo Sabres Preview

Patrick Kaleta has played over three hundred games with the Buffalo Sabres since his tenure began in 2006-07 season.

Patrick Kaleta has played over three hundred games with the Buffalo Sabres since his tenure began in 2006-07 season.

The Buffalo Sabres (6-13-2) will attempt to win their fourth consecutive game as they host the Winnipeg Jets (11-9-3) tonight at the First Niagara Center.  The recent warpath has seen Buffalo beat Toronto, San Jose, and Washington, whom all possess winning records. 

The First Niagara Center faithful will see the return of Patrick Kaleta tonight as he will appear in his first game since October 10th, 2013.  The enforcer says he has felt more comfortable and is ready to make an impact on the ice.

“My practices the past couple weeks have been really good and beneficial to my game…I feel more comfortable today than I have in the past.”

Due to the horrific snowstorm that WNY area last week, Buffalo was forced to cancel their game against the New York Rangers last Friday.  This has caused more than typical rest for the club as they have played only two games in the past ten days.  Ted Nolan has offered zero excuses for the effort that the club must come out with tonight.

 “We should be nice and fresh.”

Winnipeg boasts an impressive 7-4-2 road record and is coming off a 4-2 victory in Columbus last night. Bryan Little scored just nine seconds into the game and also had an assist.  After a scoreless streak that lasted thirteen games and nearly a month, Little is back to his scoring ways and will look to continue tonight vs Buffalo.  

Jets rookie netminder Michael Hutchinson stopped 32 shots last night.  In his past five appearances he is 4-0-1 while carrying a 0.85 GAA.  Hutchinson’s success this season has caused recent talk in Winnipeg about a potential goaltender controversy.  Starter Ondrej Pavelec is 0-4-0 with a 3.33 GAA in his past five starts.

The Jets will turn to the struggling Pavelec tonight in hopes of a confidence boost for the 27 year old Czech native.  Jhonas Enroth will once again start for Buffalo.  He made 43 saves in the Sabres 2-1 victory over the Capitals this past Saturday.

Ondrej Pavelec is looking to bounce back tonight after a poor five game stretch.

Ondrej Pavelec is looking to bounce back tonight after a poor five game stretch.

Three notes:

Josh Gorges is out tonight but has been practicing.  He could potentially be back for the showdown vs his former team (Montreal) on Friday.

Patrick Kaleta will take the place of Cody McCormick, who is being tested for a possible concussion.  He may get time as the 4th line center between Chris Stewart and Macus Foligno.

Cody Hodgson has clearly struggled this season both from a statistical (1G, 1A, 21GP) and eye-test standpoint.  Ted Nolan was often critical of Hodgson’s game earlier this season but sounded encouraged after Tuesday’s practice regarding what he has seen of late.

“He’s working with our coaches about getting himself in better (offensive) position.  He’s getting here early and working in the film room.  I really believe he’s on the brink of breaking out.”