Buffalo (28-11-5) at Atlanta (20-19-6)
Tonight, Buffalo began a seven game road trip that will last two weeks, beginning in Atlanta. The Sabres have struggled against the Thrashers lately, but did defeat them 4-3, despite being down 3-0 on January 1st.
Atlanta is 12-3-3 all time against the Sabres at home, so Buffalo had to bring their best if they wanted to win the first of seven on the road. However, the Thrashers have been struggling as of late, going 2-7-3 in their last twelve games.
Buffalo came in with a 12-6 record on the road this season. Tim Connolly was looking to extend his nine game point streak. Patrick Kaleta was back in the lineup after missing six games due to a leg injury.
Neither team was able to score in the first period. Buffalo had a two man advantage for a minute, but were unable to get it by Ondrej Pavelec. Atlanta outshot Buffalo 13-8 after the first period. Patrick Kaleta made his presence known during his return back to the lineup. Kaleta got under Jim Slater's nerves early on by hitting Ilya Kovalchuk hard twice.
Kaleta began the scoring early in the second, by earning his seventh goal of the season. Buffalo is 14-1-5 when scoring first, a record that leads the NHL.
After going 0-5 on the power play, the Thrashers finally took advantage of a Buffalo penalty. Kovalchuk took a wrist shot to beat Ryan Miller for his 27th goal of the season. The Sabres were outshot 13-5 in the second period, most of that because of three penalties Buffalo received.
The Sabres began the third period with a minute and a half remaining on their power play, but could not capitalize. The Sabres put on the pressure in the third, outshooting Atlanta 13-6.
In the overtime period, the Sabres started had a power play that carried over from the third. They were unable to take advantage of that power play either. Patrick Kaleta became a factor again when he beat the Atlanta player for an icing and also drew a penalty, on what would lead to a Sabres win.
Derek Roy ripped home a one timer, ending the game and giving Buffalo a 2-1 win to start their road trip. Assisting on the goal was Tim Connolly, who extended his point streak to ten games.
Miller stopped 32 of 33 shots, contributing to a win in overtime. The Sabres may have not made it to overtime if it wasn't for Tyler Myers. Myers made a save in the second period that would have been an Atlanta goal.
Lindy Ruff is hoping for 10 points on this seven game road trip. Buffalo got off to a good start with a win in Atlanta. The Sabres never trailed Thursday night, and although they could have played better, Buffalo manufactured a win.
Kaleta was a huge factor in his return to the lineup, scoring a goal, drawing two penalties, and getting under the skin of the Thrashers. Miller was a rock in net, and Derek Roy finished the game off.
Kevin "Road Warrior" Freiheit