The 2013-14 NHL season kicks off tonight for both the Buffalo Sabres and the Detroit Red Wings. The Red Wings are making their debut in the Eastern Conference while the Sabres are looking to win their third straight season opener. Last season the Red Wings lost in the second round of playoffs to the eventual Stanley Cup Champions the Chicago Blackhawks. On the other hand, the Sabres failed to reach the postseason.
Lets take a look at the key players that will help determine the outcome of tonight’s matchup as both teams try to start the season off on the right foot.
Ryan Miller, Goalie
Miller is widely regarded as one of the premier goalies in the NHL. In last year's lockout-shortened season, Miller wasn’t his usual self with a 2.81 GAA.
The Sabres will be relying on Miller to return to an elite level and compete in the high-powered Eastern Conference. Buffalo will need a huge game from Miller if they want to knock off the mighty Red Wings.
Thomas Vanek, Forward
Vanek is the biggest scoring threat the Sabres have on the roster. He led the team in scoring a year ago with 41 points. But Vanek is not only a goal scorer, he is also a great set up man, tallying 21 assists last year.
Vanek will have to prove that he still has his playmaking ability matching up against a very strong defensive first line for the Red Wings.
Christian Ehrhoff, Defenseman
The best defenseman on the Sabres roster will need to lead their young group against the experienced Red Wings attack. Ehrhoff is one of the better defenders in the league but will be matched up against one of the best players in the NHL, Pavel Datsyuk.
Ehrhoff can move the puck well up the ice and led the defense last year with 17 assists. If Ehrhoff can have a big game tonight, look for his confidence to grow as the season goes on.
Detroit Red Wings
Niklas Kronwall, Defenseman
Kronwall is one of the hardest hitting defensemen in the NHL and will look to start the season off right against an undersized group of Buffalo forwards.
Kronwall will have his hands full with Thomas Vanek, but when he is off the ice, look for Kronwall to bring his aggressive style of play. Last season Kronwall showed that he was also an offensive threat with 29 points and 24 assists.
Henrik Zetterberg, Forward
The Red Wings will look to their captain tonight to make the big plays when they need them the most. Zetterberg was second on the team in points a year ago and is a force on the first line for Detroit.
The Sweden native is one of the best forwards in the league and the Red Wings will be relying on him not only tonight, but throughout the entire season.
Pavel Datsyuk, Forward
Datsyuk is the craftiest forward in the NHL and at only 5’11”, 198 pounds, Datsyuk can maneuver the puck better than anyone.
He has shown no signs of aging at 35, and will give the Buffalo defense fits the entire night. Look for Datsyuk to come out firing in the first game of the season and find the back of the net at least once.