Buffalo Sabres Schedule 2013: 5 Games You Can't Miss

Matt CloudenCorrespondent IJanuary 14, 2013

Buffalo Sabres Schedule 2013: 5 Games You Can't Miss

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    The Buffalo Sabres schedule was released late Saturday evening after the NHL and NHLPA finally put their signatures on the Memo of Understanding under which the two sides will operate the shortened season. 

    It goes without saying that the Sabres schedule, along with the entire NHL's, will be high-paced and frantic as every team will play their 48 games in less than 100 days. 

    While the compressed season and schedule will lead to enough drama for the Sabres, there are certainly some games that the team will be looking to a bit more than the others.

    Here are the five games you absolutely cannot miss this season.

    Follow me on Twitter for NHL and Sabres news all season: @SwordPlay18

January 24 and January 25: Carolina Hurricanes

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    The Sabres play back-to-back games to open the season, but get a three day breather before traveling down to Raleigh, North Carolina, to take on the Carolina Hurricanes in the first half of a home-and-home series that concludes at the First Niagara Center the next night. 

    Home-and-homes are generally reserved for divisional opponents, but given the schedule needs, the Sabres' only one this season will be against the 'Canes.

    This series will be intriguing for a number of reasons. 

    First, the Hurricanes struggled at the beginning of last season and were unable to make it into the playoffs for the third straight season. That led to an overhaul for the team, who made a blockbuster trade on the first day of the draft to acquire Jordan Staal from the Pittsburgh Penguins and then signed former Washington Capital Alexander Semin to a one-year deal.

    Many expect the Hurricanes to compete for a playoff spot this year given their moves, and they will be a great early test for the Sabres.

    Second, the second game of home-and-homes tend to be a far more physical affair than the first. The Sabres will be able to see exactly how valuable Steve Ott will be to the team and fans may find this to be their first opportunity to hail Ott's acquisition. 

    The puck drop for both games is at 7 p.m.  ET.

January 31: at Boston Bruins

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    It seems like the entire hockey world will be watching this one. 

    In response to the Milan Lucic-Ryan Miller incident last season, the Sabres went out and signed John Scott and traded for Steve Ott to handle the physicality of the Boston Bruins

    Realistically, this will be the first game Scott sees ice time in, and don't be surprised if it's solely to scrap with Lucic and/or Shawn Thornton. 

    Do yourselves a favor when watching the game though: Don't get lost in the chest thumping that will be happening on both sides. The Bruins and Sabres are arguably, on paper, the best two teams in the division and with the fighting roles doled out already, look for a great back-and-forth game to be played. 

    Puck drop is at 7 p.m. ET at TD Garden. 

February 17: Pittsburgh Penguins

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    The 16th game on the schedule could be one to go a long way to telling Sabres fans how competitive the Sabres will be this year. 

    The Penguins come into town at the end of a week that sees the Sabres playing the Bruins twice and the Ottawa Senators once. 

    The Penguins and the New York Rangers—who meet the Sabres for the first time March 3—are widely thought of to be the best two teams in the Eastern Conference, and a win in this game against Sidney Crosby and reigning Hart and Art Ross Trophy winner Evgeni Malkin could put the Sabres in the contention conversation. 

    The game is nationally televised on NBC with a 12:30 pm ET puck drop. 

April 5: Ottawa Senators

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    As a divisional opponent, every Ottawa game is important, but this one has a few side stories that make it even more intriguing. 

    First, this is the first game for the Sabres following the trade deadline that has been reportedly set for April 3. This is always a fun game to watch, especially if Darcy Regier were to make any moves.

    Second, the Senators came out of nowhere last season to take a run at the Northeast Division crown and the playoffs. By this time, hockey fans should know whether last year was a flash in the pan or if the Sens are a true contender in the Eastern Conference.

    The game starts at 7 p.m. ET at the First Niagara Center. 

April 26: New York Islanders

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    While many have the Islanders near the bottom of the Eastern Conference again this year, this game is important for one big reason: It's the last game of the season. 

    In a condensed schedule, points will be at a premium all year, but 48 games is not a lot of time to distance yourself from another team in the standings. 

    Look for the last week of the season to be a roller coaster ride for fans. Getting two points, especially in regulation—given the emphasis the NHL placed on wins in regulation last year in tie-breakers, will be even more important. 

    The last week could see teams getting in and getting pushed out multiple times given how close the point totals are likely to be. 

    A win in this game could mean the division, the playoffs or be just a send-off for Sabres fans, but odds are it'll have important playoff implications, whether it's to get in or for seeding. 

    The game is at 7 p.m. ET at the First Niagara Center.