It's been an unusual fall for Buffalo sports fans. Usually by mid-October, fans already have their full attention turned to the Buffalo Sabres. With the surprising start by the Buffalo Bills on the field, hockey fans are hoping to witness yet another big season turn around, on the ice.
After winning in semi-dramatic fashion, via shootout for their season opener at HSBC Arena in Buffalo Friday night, fans expectations are high for the Sabres to make another run for the Stanley Cup this year.
"I think it's gonna be better then last year. They did sign all their key players; Jason Pominville to a great deal, Thomas Vanek and Ryan Miller," said Sabres fan John Dudek of East Aurora. "The team doesn't really have to prove anything now, they can focus on winning instead of trying to pad their paycheck."
OBSERVER Photo by Michael Rukavina
Buffalo Sabres fans look on during the team’s season opener Friday at 41 West in Fredonia.
Ryan Miller recorded 28 saves in Friday nights win and was solid in the final shootout, and fans feel the team will go as far as he will take them. When asked who will effect the outcome of the teams play this year the most, Miller was top choice.
"Ryan Miller, if he does well and plays a good amount of the season I think we'll do well," said Jordan Cooper of Dunkirk. "He's the backbone of the Sabres."
Expectations were high for forward Tim Connolly, who began the season as a scratch with lower back problems, but many feel other players on the team are ready to fill the void.
"I think, Maxim Afinogenov, everyone says he has to stop puck handling like he does but he creates plays, he really does," said Dan Snyder, who recently returned to the area from active duty. "He helps us more then he hurts us, but I think Miller will be the ultimate factor for a successful season this year."
"Jason Pominville. He needs to come on as a leader again," added Dudek. "He led the team in points last year ... the population of Pominville has to go up this year."
At the trade deadline during the 2007-2008 season the Sabres traded away popular defensemen Brian Campbell for financial reasons.
Shortly into the offseason Sabres management filled the void with veteran defensemen Craig Rivet, who was named captain of the team early this week, the first full-time captain for the team since Stu Barnes in 2004.
"I think they're a very cohesive team and I think it impresses me that a new person can come in and they'd vote him in as captain," said Roxanne Michalak, who was outside Rookies selling tickets for the McKinnon Family benefit Friday night. "It seems to me to show they're all working in the same direction."
Fans hope the team will take the next step Monday when the Sabres travel to the isle for a 2:00 p.m. game against the Islanders.
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