Let's scan the defense situation first...
Matt Gilroy, who was benched at the end of last season, is a healthy scratch tonight as Steve Eminger and rookie Mike Sauer will be the third d-pair. "Both (Gilroy and Sauer) had good camps. We asked him (Gilroy) to concentrate on some things and I think he worked hard in the summer," said coach John Tortorella. "We just felt as a coaching staff that Sauer had a better camp. This is one game and we needed to make a decision." Given the fact that the Rangers have five righty Ds, Eminger will shift. "He'll be better on the left side, so it came down to him (Sauer) or Matt."
And, as he did for certain games last season, Tortorella broke up the Marc Staal-Dan Girardi pairing for more balance. Staal is with Michal Rozsival, Mike Del Zotto with Girardi.
“Buffalo’s a pretty balanced lineup, I thought (Derek) Roy was their best player (Friday) night, but you could argue that (Tim) Connolly’s line was their best line, so... we did it last year, pretty successful at it....If we feel a team that’s really stacked, we’ll end up putting Staal and Girardi together. Having said that, I look for Michael Del Zotto to grow defensively this year, I think Rozy has, too, so we may not have to worry about that."
Chris Drury practiced with the team and fired shots (wristers and slappers) fopr the first time since he broke his left index finger blocking a shot in a Sept. 20 scrimmage.
"I really wanted to push it a little to see how it responded and I was pretty happy with it," said Drury, who will practice again tomorrow in Westchester. Drury said he has a timetable in mind, but doesn't want to go public with it. "I just hope it's as quick as possible, but take it day to day." The doctors were happy last week and Drury has an appointment again Tuesday, which opens the possibility of him playing against Toronto in the MSG opener on Oct. 15.
"I don't think it's going to be a conditioning thing, just timing and that kind of stuff," he said. "I think the biggest concern is taking a step back. If it were to separate and require surgery, you're talking months. Just making sure that it's stuck together enough. We'll see how it reacts today and tomorrow."
Drury is still wearing a splint off-ice, and his glove is triple-layered.
If he is ready for the 15th, the question becomes: Where does he play? Who's spot does he take at center or wing?
Sauer and rookie Derek Stepan, 20, who will make his first NHL start, said after the skate at HSBC Arena that the stomach butterflies weren't fluttering, but expected some nerves as the drop of the puck drew closer.
"With (Stepan), I don’t think that’s gonna be aproblem," said Tortorella. "I think he embraces all his challenges and looks on it as an opportunity. We put him in situations in camp just to see how he would react. He’s handled everything we’ve thrown at him. He’s intelligent, he's engaged as far as questions. I think the excitement’s going to take over more than nerves."
More from players and Sabres coach Lindy Ruff in a bit....