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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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Scoreboard
Local
Final
UVA 27
UNC 28
Final
NCCU 42
SAVST 14
 
1:00pm Today
CAR
SEA
Final
SFG 11
KAN 4
8:07pm Tonight
SFG
KAN
 
Final
WISC 52
MD 7
Final
SMU 10
MEM 48
Final
ILL 28
MINN 24
Final
RICE 41
UNT 21
Final
NEB 42
RUTG 24
Final
KST 23
TEX 0
Final
ARK 45
UAB 17
Final
UVA 27
UNC 28
Final
EMICH 17
NILL 28
Final
NAVY 41
SJST 31
Final
BST 35
AKR 21
Final
GASTATE 31
GASO 69
Final
TOL 42
UMASS 35
Final
WMICH 42
OHIO 21
Final
COL 37
UCLA 40
Final
UMO 10
KSU 3
Final
WAKE 17
BC 23
Final
BUF 14
CMICH 20
Final
MARS 35
FATL 16
Final
PITT 28
GT 56
Final
SMISS 20
LATU 31
Final
MSU 35
MICH 11
Final
KENT 31
MSST 45
Final
STAN 38
ORST 14
Final
TCU 82
TTU 27
Final
OKST 10
WVU 34
Final
WKENT 66
ODU 51
Final
UTST 34
UNLV 20
Final
MIZZ 24
VANDY 14
Final
UCF 34
TEMPL 14
Final
WASU 37
ARZ 59
Final
CLEM 16
SYR 6
Final
LAMON 18
TXST 22
Final
TXSANANTO 0
UTEP 34
Final
COLST 45
WYO 31
Final
LSU 10
MISS 7
Final
TENN 20
ALA 34
Final
AUB 42
SCAR 35
Final
PSU 24
OSU 31
Final
UTAH 24
USC 21
4th
WASH 10
ARST 24
 
3rd
HAW 10
NEV 6
 
Final
SJS 1
BUF 2
Final
TOR 1
BOS 4
Final
NYI 7
DAL 5
Final
PHI 4
DET 2
Final
OTT 2
NJD 3
Final
MON 3
NYR 1
Final
STL 3
CHI 2
Final
NAS 0
PIT 3
Final
MIN 7
TAM 2
Final
ARI 2
FLA 1
Final
CAL 1
WAS 3
3:00pm Today
WIN
COL
 
4:00pm Today
LOS
CLB
 
7:00pm Tonight
CHI
OTT
 
8:00pm Tonight
ANA
SJS
 
9:30pm Tonight
VAN
WAS
 
9:30am Today
ATL
DET
1:00pm Today
CIN
BAL
1:00pm Today
NYJ
BUF
1:00pm Today
NEP
CHI
1:00pm Today
TEN
HOU
1:00pm Today
JAC
MIA
1:00pm Today
TAM
MIN
1:00pm Today
CAR
SEA
1:00pm Today
KAN
STL
4:05pm Today
ARI
PHI
4:25pm Today
PIT
IND
4:25pm Today
CLE
OAK
8:30pm Tonight
NOS
GBP
Final
NCCU 42
SAVST 14