1. I remember the last time the Kings and Buffalo played, which was during the 2005-2006 season when the Kings visited Buffalo. I was anticipating a great fast game since the Kings were just coming off a great December but instead I was clapping and cheering every time Garon or some kid named Hauser made a save. Buffalo put on a clinic and embarrassed the Kings 10-1. Do you remember watching that game and can we expect something similar this time?
I do remember watching that game and as a Sabres fan it was really fun to watch. It seemed like everything went right for Buffalo and we have grown accustomed to seeing similar games over the past couple of years. I don't anticipate this game will turn out the same way however. This years Sabres team is not the same as in the past although a 8-1 victory over Carolina on Saturday and a 7-0 win over Atlanta earlier in the season help us believe they have it in them. The biggest factor will Jason LaBarbara, he is much better than Garon and Hauser and although some recent struggles I don't think the Kings would allow that to happen on home ice.
2. Maxim Afinogenov has been one of my favorite Sabres, mainly because of his name, but also because he can play pretty well. He's not even 30 and he seems to keep getting better every season. It might be because of my location, but I rarely hear about this guy. Does Buffalo pay a lot of attention to him or he is another guy who only gets exposure when he doesn't play well?
He is definitely a guy who only gets exposure when he doesn't play well. He can't seem to find a rhythm this season and he is a player that the Sabres depend on for offensive production. I think his poor play is the reason the Sabres have been so inconsistent this year and they need him to regain his old form. recently there have been plenty of rumors about Afinogenov being traded to get a defenseman but I personally don't see that happening. If Afinogenov can pick up his game and start contributing some points the Sabres will once again be a contender.
3. Looking at Buffalo's cap numbers and salaries looks like Numminen, Kalinin, Campbell, and Thibault are all UFAs at the end of this season. Campbell has been putting up the best numbers but what are your thoughts about whether the front office should sign these guys or let them walk at the end of the season? And if you think they should return, when would you expect their contracts to be extended?
All of these situations are completely different. Campbell is by far the most important of the group and they need to make sure gets signed before the end of the season. The rumors are that he wants in the range of $5 million per season and many people don't think he is worth that kind of money, I say hogwash...pay the guy what he wants because he is the catalyst of this team.
Teppo Numminen is a different situation because nobody knows how he will rebound from his heart surgery. (Ed. note: I completely forgot about Numminen's heart condition.) If he comes back they will wait and see how he responds on the ice before making any decision on him. I wouldn't be surprised if he retires after the season due to his heart condition and not wanting to risk his life to play hockey. Numminen was expected to be a leader on this years team and in the early going he was really missed but some guys have stepped up and lessened the blow from his loss.
Dmitri Kalinin will probably not be re-signed at the end of the season. The play of Nathan Paetsch and youngsters Andrej Sekera and Mike Weber makes Kalinin expendable. Kalinin is guy that is hard to figure out, he can be the best player on the ice at times and at other times he looks lost. I think Lindy Ruff has had enough of the lack of consistency with Kalinin and he will be allowed to test the market.
As far as T-Bo I have no idea but if he isn't the back up someone else will be. The fact remains that Miller is the guy and the back up will not play much.
4. Speaking of T-Bo, what was your reaction when you found out he was signed to back up Miller? Not quite the Biron, but the back up netminder pool was slim during the off-season. He's only played 3 games (2-1-0) this season but has he played well and do you think he should get more playing time to let Miller rest? If his contract isn't extended is there a goalie in the farm system that has a shot with the team or would you rather bring in someone else?
T-Bo has played well making the most of limited opportunities playing behind Miller. Ironically enough I wouldn't be surprised to see him start against the Kings. He was outstanding in a shutout victory over Montreal last week and was the victim of some defensive breakdowns against Florida earlier in the season. I would anticipate that the sabres will try to sign him after the season if he does well because the farm system is void of a competent backup. Adam Dennis would be the next in line and many scouts think he is alright for the AHL but will never be NHL caliber. The Sabres do have a young goalie playing in Sweden in Jhonas Enroth. Enroth is predicted to be a good NHL goalie but he is only 19 years old and needs more time to develop.
5. Afinogenov, Vanek, Tallinder, Campbell, and Miller are on the 2007-2008 All-Star ballot. Of those 5 who do you think definitely should make the team? Are there any other Sabres who were left off the ballot that you think deserves a write-in?
I think Brian Campbell is the most deserving Sabre to make the all star team. It's a far cry from last season when Briere, Campbell and Miller were all starters but Campbell is the only guy who is deserving of playing in that game. I'm not sure he is all star caliber but Derek Roy is probably more deserving of being on the ballot than any of the other four players. As a side note Campbell leads all Sabres in votes thus far proving that people are voting based on players who are deserving instead of based on their name...ie Miller and Vanek.