Philadelphia Flyers @ Buffalo Sabres Preview

(April 23, 2011 - Source: Rick Stewart/Getty Images North America)

(April 23, 2011 - Source: Rick Stewart/Getty Images North America)

Tonight, the Buffalo Sabres (14-28-3) look to snap a nine game losing streak as they take on the Philadelphia Flyers (17-21-7) at First Niagara Center. This is the first of three times that these two teams will be pitted up against each other this year. Last year the Flyers swept the Sabres in the season series, winning all three games. This series could be a break out point for Cody Hodgson. In the three game series last year, Hodgson was the Sabres lead scorer with 2 goals and 2 assists, just 2 points shy of his regular season point total this year.

The 7-0 loss to the Minnesota Wild on Thursday was the worst loss in the First Niagara Center since it was built in 1996. In the numerous games that I have been a witness of at First Niagara, this was the first game that I was inclined to leave early. After watching the Sabres give up their league-high eighth shorthanded goal in the second period, I knew that the game was going nowhere and much like the 17,000+ that paid to see this poor performance, I found my way to the nearest exit and back out in to the Buffalo cold to cool my temper.

If the Sabres want to snap this losing streak, tonight would be a great time to do so. The Flyers are scoreless in their last two bouts, one being a 4-0 loss to ex-Sabre Ryan Miller and the Canucks. In order to win games though, the Sabres need to start scoring as well. In the nine consecutive regulation losses, which is actually a franchise record, the Sabres have been outscored 39-9. In these nine games though, the Sabres have been without their captain, forward Brian Gionta. Gionta was on the ice in practice for the Sabres on Wednesday morning, skating the right wing on a line centered by Zemgus Girgensons and Brian Flynn taking the left wing. On this line, Gionta was splitting the time with Chris Stewart, so I have a feeling that his return to the lineup tonight may be a game time decision.

Success for the Sabres in the game tonight will come if they can keep forwards Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek off of the stat sheet and play a disciplined game. Together, they have combined for a total of 100 points in 45 games played. On the power-play, this duo has netted 15 of the 34 goals that Flyers have on the power-play. Despite being 23rd in the league, Philadelphia’s power-play unit is placed 6th amongst the 30 NHL teams, with a 22.2 success percentage. When on the power-play, Philadelphia likes to work the puck on the outside and push the defensive unit in until it collapses. Once the unit collapses and begins to crunch in, they always find a way to get the puck to Voracek or Giroux waiting for a one-timer below the hashmarks in the faceoff circle. Even though it is entertaining to watch, I hope the Sabres are able to keep their cool despite their losing ways, and find a way to win this game.

This will be the Sabres last home game before the All-Star Break. After this game, they will be boarding a plane to Detroit to take on the Wild Wings in a rare Sunday night game.

Michal Neuvirth will start in net for Buffalo.