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Game 26: Flyers Up in Buffalo to Meet Mr. Miller

Dec 7, 2011, 6:32 PM EDT

A preview of the Philadelphia Flyers-Buffalo Sabres matchup.

Having now been to Buffalo once, for several hours of the football equivalent of getting pushed down a flight of stairs, I can safely say I won’t be back there anytime soon, and likely never again by choice. We had a great time at Niagara Falls for a few hours and spent the majority of the weekend in Toronto (very cool), coming into Buffalo just for the Eagles-Bills game before flying out 2 hours later. The only two landmarks we visited were Ralph Wilson Stadium and the airport.

Tonight, the Flyers are doing presumably the other fun thing to do up there—going to a Sabres game. They’ll have familiar face Ville Leino, who continues to be the Jayson Werth of hockey, notching just a pair of goals and seven assists after signing a big multiyear deal during the free agency frenzy this past summer. Leino may not be pulling his weight just yet, but the Sabres aren’t without firepower, and they’re hanging the middle of a very competitive Northeast Division. Just seven points separate first place Boston from last place Montreal, the latter being aided by 6 OTLs.

Thomas Vanek is once again the Sabres’ leading goal scorer, netting 12 so far. He’s tied with Jason Pominville for the team lead in points with 27.

Goalies
Ilya Bryzgalov will face Ryan Miller in goal, which is interesting for two reasons. One, it’s likely that the Flyers will try to be all up in Miller’s crease, if not closer, as part of their game plan. We know he’s particularly sensitive to this from previous meetings with the Flyers, but a pair of high-profile crease runnings have recently made news with the Buffalo netminder on the receiving end. In his first game back after missing eight games due to a collision with Milan Lucic, Miller was slammed by Jordin Tootoo of the Predators on Saturday. Tootoo was suspended. (Guess how many games!)

Miller was chased from the net in the teams’ previous meeting this season. Are the Flyers in his head, or will he show some of what gained him accolades as one of the best in the game?

The other reason the goaltending matchup is interesting is that the Flyers play a big game with the Penguins at home tomorrow. Does Lavvy already have a plan as to which goalie will go tomorrow if all goes well tonight? If all does not? Tough situation for picking and choosing, because the long layoff this week has kept both goalies off the ice for days.

Fireworks?
A bitter playoff series this past spring enlivened some bad blood between these two clubs, and though both have seen some turnover, it’d be no surprise if there were some fireworks in a nationally televised game tonight (Versus, 7:30).

Who steps up for the Flyers tonight?