Calgary Flames @ Buffalo Sabres Preview

The retooled 17-10-2 Calgary Flames will face off against the Buffalo Sabres tonight at the First Niagara Center.  Gone are the days of Miikka Kiprusoff and Jarome Iginla, as the national hockey audience has slowly turned its head towards the new cast of characters wearing the red and orange.  Meet the likes of Sean Monahan and Jonny Gaudreau, young stars who have helped propel a team that was a complete afterthought two months ago. 

Sean Monahan has experienced instant NHL success.

Sean Monahan has experienced instant NHL success.

Monahan was the 6th overall selection in the 2013 NHL entry draft and has already provided large dividends.  At age 19, he scored 22 goals in 75 games last season.  At the ripe age of 20, he’s on track to score nearly 30 goals this season as he already has ten through the team’s first 29 games.  He has also added nine assists.  After a five game point streak that lasted from November 25th until December 4th, he has been held scoreless in each of his last two games.  Monahan is from nearby Brampton, Ontario and will likely have a large support group of friends and family at the arena. 

Johnny Gaudreau is an American born player who played his college hockey at Boston College.  Gaudreau, listed at 5’9 and 150lbs, draws comparisons to a familiar former BC star Nathan Gerbe because of his small stature.  Gadreau experienced great success last season at BC where he scored 80 points in 40 games.  Flash forward to this season, Gaudreau has been a catalyst of sorts for the Flames in his first full NHL season, tallying 21 points in 28 games.

Johnny Gaudreau was taken in the 4th round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.

Johnny Gaudreau was taken in the 4th round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.

Besides the emerging star power, Calgary boasts an underrated core of veteran players including scoring centerman Jiri Hudler and the offensively gifted defenseman Mark Giordano.  Giordano has registered at least one point in 17 of his last 19 games.  He enters tonight on a five game point streak.  Giordano, like Monahan, is also a Brampton, Ontario native.

Although defeated in their past two games, former Sabres prospect and current member of the Flames Paul Byron is not concerned.

"I think the last two games for the most part we've been pretty good, just a couple stretches where turnovers led to goals,"

Before the two game skid, Calgary was on a four game win streak. 

 

Watch out for Calgary’s powerplay. The team has a 21.6 PP %, good for 8th in the NHL.  In case you were wondering, Buffalo’s powerplay is ranked dead last at a dreadful 7.5%. 

Buffalo is coming off a 1-0 shutout over the LA Kings.  The Sabres have defeated Montreal (twice), Tampa Bay, and LA in the last two weeks.  There is a more upbeat tone in the locker room and guys are clearly receiving Ted Nolan’s message. 

Cody Hodgson will be the healthy scratch for Buffalo for the first time in his NHL career.  Hodgson, in his second year of a six year, 25.5 million dollar contract, has 3 points in 28 games this season.  Rumors have swirled that he could have been a scratch earlier in the season based upon his poor play.  Hodgson knows he needs to do a better job.

“It’s a results-oriented game.  You can try your hardest every shift and work, but at the end of the day it’s what you do out there.”

Ted Nolan hopes that a different perspective will help Hodgson.

“Maybe a game watching will get him out of that funk.”

The scratch of Cody Hodgson means that Chris Stewart will return to the lineup.  Stewart was scratched vs LA on Tuesday.  Ted Nolan announced this morning that with Stewart back in, the likely third line will be composed of Stafford, Stewart, and Marcus Foligno.  Foligno will center the group.

Jhonas Enroth will once start again for Buffalo.  Karri Rambo will start for Calgary.  Rambo had a six game win streak snapped last Saturday against the San Jose Sharks.  He is 8-3 with a .917 SV% this season. 

Follow Bill O'Hare on Twitter @billybuckets27 for live, in-game updates throughout the night.