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NHL Preview from The Sports Network



Wednesday, October 2nd (All times Eastern)

Buffalo Sabres (0-0-0) at Detroit Red Wings (0-0-0), 8 p.m.

(SportsNetwork.com) - The Detroit Red Wings will play their first game as a member of the Eastern Conference on Wednesday, as they welcome the Buffalo Sabres to Joe Louis Arena in the season opener for both teams.

Every NHL team has new divisional opponents thanks to this season's realignment plan, but only the Red Wings, Columbus Blue Jackets and the Winnipeg Jets switched conferences. Detroit had been a member of the Western Conference since the last time the NHL realigned the league before the 1993-94 season.

The Sabres and Red Wings now find themselves in the new iteration of the Atlantic Division, a group that also includes Boston, Florida, Montreal, Ottawa, Tampa Bay and Toronto. It's one of the NHL's four divisions and the top three finishers in each group will receive automatic bids to the playoffs.

Detroit has made the playoffs in 22 straight seasons and Mike Babcock's club is a good bet to make it 23 appearances in a row in the spring of 2014 after making it to the second round in 2013. Buffalo, however, is a club in the midst of a rebuilding phase, although there is hope the reclamation project won't take too long to bear fruit.

The Red Wings made some notable additions to their offense last summer, signing forwards Daniel Alfredsson and Stephen Weiss to free-agent deals. Of course, the signing of the former guy made big waves in Ottawa, which was Alfredsson's home for his entire NHL career before the 40-year old signed a one-year, $5.5 million contract to join Detroit.

Alfredsson has said he expects to hear boos when the Red Wings visit their new division rival in Ottawa for the first time this season, although that first trip to Canada's capital city won't come until Dec. 1.

With Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg still expected to do most of the heavy lifting on offense, the Red Wings don't need Alfredsson or Weiss to play like superstars, only to provide a boost to the team's offensive depth.

"The biggest thing for our team, we look good on paper, we have good depth, good team, we have to execute on the ice," said Red Wings forward Daniel Cleary. "I'm looking forward to playing these new teams more often. It'll be great for everybody involved, the fans, the media, just a different look."

Jimmy Howard will get the call in net for the Red Wings on Wednesday after turning in his best season as an NHLer in 2013, going 21-13-7 with a 2.13 goals against average and .923 save percentage in 42 appearances. The 29-year- old also tied with four other players for the league lead with five shutouts, giving Howard 11 white-washings over his last two seasons.

Ryan Miller will face Howard tonight and, along with sniper Thomas Vanek, the Buffalo goaltender is one of his team's best assets.

However, Miller, a former Vezina Trophy winner, did not have his best season in 2013, although that had something to do with Buffalo's lack of depth on both sides of the ice. Miller went 17-17-5 in 2013 and his goals against average of 2.81 was his highest number of any season in which he played in at least 10 games. Miller also failed to record a single shutout for the first time since the 2003-04 campaign, when the American played in only three games.

Both Miller and Vanek, who had 20 goals and 41 points in 38 games last season, are impending unrestricted free agents and could be used as trade bait during this season for the rebuilding Sabres. However, Miller says he hasn't ruled out re-signing with Buffalo when his contract is up at the end of the season, even if the Sabres decide to trade him before he is scheduled to hits free agency in the summer of 2014.

Vanek, meanwhile, was named as Buffalo's co-captain along with Steve Ott earlier this week. Ott will serve as captain in road games, while Vanek will take on the duties at home.

On the injury front, Buffalo will be without forwards Marcus Foligno (strained shoulder) and Corey Tropp (jaw surgery) and defenseman Nikita Zadorov (lacerated finger). All three players are currently on injured reserve.

The Sabres have missed the playoffs in two straight and four of the last six seasons, and the chances of returning to the postseason in 2014 seem slim heading into this campaign.

Because teams from opposing conference didn't play each other during the lockout-shortened season of 2013, this will mark the first meeting between the Sabres and Red Wings since 2011-12, when Detroit won both encounters.

The Red Wings are 19-2-1 with a tie in the last 23 meetings between these teams overall and Buffalo has lost three straight and 11 of its last 12 games in the Motor City.

10/02 10:54:01 ET

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Schedule

Friday, April 18Full Scoreboard
Montreal «4Final | Box
Tampa Bay1Rink Replay
Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, Game Two. Montreal leads series, 2-0.
Detroit «1Final | Box
Boston0Rink Replay
Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, Game One. Detroit leads series, 1-0.
Dallas2Final | Box
Anaheim «3Rink Replay
Western Conference Quarterfinals, Game Two. Anaheim leads series, 2-0.
Full Scoreboard

Standings

2013 - 2014 NHL Eastern Conference Standings
 
Atlantic Division W L OTL Pts GF GA Home Away Div
p-Boston 54 19 9 117 261 177 31-7-3 23-12-6 18-9-3
x-Tampa Bay 46 27 9 101 240 215 25-10-6 21-17-3 19-8-3
x-Montreal 46 28 8 100 215 204 23-13-5 23-15-3 18-8-4
x-Detroit 39 28 15 93 222 230 18-13-10 21-15-5 17-8-5
Ottawa 37 31 14 88 236 265 18-17-6 19-14-8 14-9-7
Toronto 38 36 8 84 231 256 24-16-1 14-20-7 14-13-3
Florida 29 45 8 66 196 268 16-20-5 13-25-3 13-16-1
Buffalo 21 51 10 52 157 248 13-21-7 8-30-3 7-18-5
 
Metropolitan Division W L OTL Pts GF GA Home Away Div
y-Pittsburgh 51 24 7 109 249 207 28-9-4 23-15-3 20-8-2
x-NY Rangers 45 31 6 96 218 193 20-17-4 25-14-2 16-11-3
x-Philadelphia 42 30 10 94 236 235 24-14-3 18-16-7 15-11-4
x-Columbus 43 32 7 93 231 216 22-15-4 21-17-3 16-13-1
Washington 38 30 14 90 235 240 21-13-7 17-17-7 12-15-3
New Jersey 35 29 18 88 197 208 21-11-9 14-18-9 16-9-5
Carolina 36 35 11 83 207 230 18-17-6 18-18-5 15-13-2
NY Islanders 34 37 11 79 225 267 13-19-9 21-18-2 10-16-4
 
x= clinched playoff berth
y= clinched division title
z= clinched overall points title
2013 - 2014 NHL Western Conference Standings
 
Central Division W L OTL Pts GF GA Home Away Div
y-Colorado 52 22 8 112 250 220 26-11-4 26-11-4 19-6-3
x-St. Louis 52 23 7 111 248 191 28-9-4 24-14-3 21-6-2
x-Chicago 46 21 15 107 267 220 27-7-7 19-14-8 13-13-3
x-Minnesota 43 27 12 98 207 206 26-10-5 17-17-7 14-12-3
x-Dallas 40 31 11 91 235 228 23-11-7 17-20-4 13-11-5
Nashville 38 32 12 88 216 242 19-17-5 19-15-7 12-13-4
Winnipeg 37 35 10 84 227 237 18-17-6 19-18-4 9-15-5
 
Pacific Division W L OTL Pts GF GA Home Away Div
z-Anaheim 54 20 8 116 266 209 29-8-4 25-12-4 22-4-3
x-San Jose 51 22 9 111 249 200 29-7-5 22-15-4 18-7-3
x-Los Angeles 46 28 8 100 206 174 23-14-4 23-14-4 16-10-3
Phoenix 37 30 15 89 216 231 22-14-5 15-16-10 14-9-6
Vancouver 36 35 11 83 196 223 20-15-6 16-20-5 12-13-4
Calgary 35 40 7 77 209 241 19-19-3 16-21-4 11-15-3
Edmonton 29 44 9 67 203 270 16-22-3 13-22-6 8-17-4
 
x= clinched playoff berth
y= clinched division title
z= clinched overall points title
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Scoreboard
Local
Final
NOR 0
DUR 3
 
7:05pm Tonight
NOR
DUR
 
Final
CHC 1
CIN 4
Final
PIT 3
MIL 5
Final
WAS 3
STL 1
Final
CLE 2
TOR 3
Final
DET 6
ANA 11
Final
NYM 0
ATL 6
Final
BOS 4
BAL 8
Final
TAM 11
NYY 5
Final
MIA 8
SEA 4
Final
TEX 12
CWS 0
Final
KAN 5
MIN 0
Final
COL 12
PHI 1
Final
OAK 11
HOU 3
Final
LOS 2
ARI 4
Final
SDP 2
SFG 1
1:05pm Today
WAS
STL
 
1:05pm Today
CLE
TOR
 
1:08pm Today
DET
ANA
 
1:35pm Today
BOS
BAL
 
2:10pm Today
KAN
MIN
 
2:20pm Today
CHC
CIN
 
4:05pm Today
OAK
HOU
 
7:05pm Tonight
PIT
MIL
 
7:10pm Tonight
NYM
ATL
 
7:10pm Tonight
TAM
NYY
 
7:10pm Tonight
MIA
SEA
 
8:05pm Tonight
TEX
CWS
 
8:10pm Tonight
LOS
ARI
 
8:10pm Tonight
COL
PHI
 
8:40pm Tonight
SDP
SFG
 
12:30pm Today
TOR
BRK
3:30pm Today
LAC
GSW
7:00pm Tonight
IND
ATL
9:30pm Tonight
OKC
MEM
Final
TAM 1
MON 4
Final
BOS 0
DET 1
Final
ANA 3
DAL 2
3:00pm Today
STL
CHI
7:00pm Tonight
PIT
CLB
9:30pm Tonight
COL
MIN
Final
NOR 0
DUR 3
 
7:05pm Tonight
NOR
DUR