The Buffalo Sabres are set to begin the lockout-shortened season on home ice, as they welcome the Philadelphia Flyers for Sunday's battle at First Niagara Center.
The Sabres have missed the postseason in three of the last five years and they only finished three points out of a playoff berth last spring.
After last season's 89-point performance the Sabres decided to shake up the roster by swapping centermen with Dallas, sending Derek Roy to the Stars in exchange for Steve Ott. With an average of nearly 155 penalty minutes per season over the last five years, Ott will certainly bring toughness to a team that lacks that trait.
Tyler Myers and Ville Leino both had incredibly disappointing seasons in 2011-12 and Buffalo desperately needs at least one of them to rebound this season if it wants to make the playoffs.
Myers won the Calder Trophy as the league's best rookie in 2009-10 but inconsistency has plagued the big defenseman over the last two seasons. At 22, Myers has time on his side but the 29-year-old Leino needs to produce now after a dreadful first season with Buffalo. The former Flyers forward inked a six-year, $27 million deal with Buffalo prior to last season only to post an anemic 25 points over 71 games.
Even though the Sabres have depth issues on both ends of the ice the team has a decent chance at making the playoffs if goaltender Ryan Miller can regain the form that made him the Vezina Trophy winner in 2009-10. Miller went 41-18-8 with a 2.22 goals-against average to win the award that season.
On Sunday, Buffalo also will try to rebound from getting swept by the Flyers in last years's season series. Philadelphia posted a 4-0 record and outscored the Sabres by a combined score of 17-9.
The Flyers have won two straight, three of four and seven of their last nine games in Buffalo.
Philadelphia opened its season Saturday at home against Pittsburgh, but wound up dropping a 3-1 decision to its cross-state rivals. Penguins goalie Marc- Andre Fleury made 26 saves to frustrate the Flyers and earn his 227th career win, breaking a tie with Tom Barrasso for the most in franchise history.
James Neal, Tyler Kennedy and Chris Kunitz each had a goal for the Penguins, who exacted a small amount of revenge for last spring's opening-round playoff loss to Philadelphia.
Ilya Bryzgalov stopped 24 shots for Philadelphia on Saturday, while Claude Giroux lit the lamp in his debut as the Flyers' new captain.
The Flyers, who are playing without injured sniper Danny Briere, failed to score on five power-play attempts on Saturday. Pittsburgh went 2-of-5 on the man advantage.
"Special teams I think was the biggest difference," said Flyers forward Scott Hartnell. "We had a lot of chances and we executed except for putting the puck in the net."
The Flyers' next test will be Tuesday in New Jersey, while the Sabres will visit Toronto on Monday.