NBCSN continues its coverage of the 2013-14 campaign tonight when the Buffalo Sabres host the Minnesota Wild at the First Niagara Center at 7:30 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.
It wasn’t long ago that Jason Pominville was the Sabres’ captain. That ended when Buffalo dealt him to the Minnesota Wild in April as part of its efforts to kick start the rebuilding process.
Now Pominville will return to Buffalo for the first time since the trade. Early on in his 578-game stint in Buffalo, the Sabres made it all the way to the Conference Finals in back-to-back campaigns. Now they are dead last in NHL after scoring just six goals in six games.
If Buffalo continues its current descent, then it might not be long before Pominville’s friend, Thomas Vanek, and goaltender Ryan Miller follow in his footsteps. Both are in the final campaign of their respective contracts and have been two of the bright spots in Buffalo’s otherwise dreary start.
“[Miller’s] basically at this point one of the best players in the league in terms of influence on their hockey team,” Sabres coach Ron Rolston told the Buffalo News. That should underscore just how bad things have gotten when even Miller can’t buy a win despite his 2.29 GAA and .941 save percentage in four starts.
When Buffalo has scored, Thomas Vanek has usually played a hand in it. He has two goals and two assists, making him one of just three Sabres players to have multiple points so far this season.
While the Sabres try and put their nasty beginning behind them and show that it’s not a sign of things to come, the Wild will compete for their third straight win.
Expectations have increased in Minnesota since signed forward Zach Parise and defenseman Ryan Suter in the summer of 2012. The Wild ended their playoff slump in 2013, but didn’t get past the first round. The pressure is on for them to do better this season, but first they’ll need to secure a spot in the tough Central Division.
So far they have a respectable 2-1-2 record and have gotten some needed production out of their younger forwards. They’ve also been the best team on the draw while the Sabres are among the worst.
Just another one of the hills the Sabres will need to climb as they get things ready for the return of their former captain.