BERLIN – The NHL is headed to Berlin for its first regular-season game in Germany, and a pair of local boys could be in the spotlight when the Buffalo Sabres take on the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday.
Buffalo forward Jochen Hecht and off-season signing defenceman Christian Ehrhoff will both be at the sold-out O2 World arena. Ehrhoff said he signed his 10-year, US$40-million contract with the Sabres in June without knowing the team was scheduled to play in Germany.
“This was definitely a great bonus,” said Ehrhoff, who expects to have plenty of family and friends in the stands.
The O2 World arena opened in 2008 and is the home of defending German league champion Eisbaeren Berlin and basketball’s Alba Berlin. But Saturday’s game will be its first regular-season NHL game.
In pre-season games, the Kings beat the German league club Hamburg Freezers 5-4 Tuesday while the Sabres defeated Adler Mannheim 8-3.
Hecht, who is originally from Mannheim, was unable to play due to a head injury sustained two weeks ago when he collided with teammate Shaone Morrisonn in practice.
The Kings head into the season after trading for Mike Richards, a talented centre and former Philadelphia Flyers captain. Among other moves, the Kings also signed 21-year-old defenceman Drew Doughty to an eight-year, $56-million contract.
Also, Sabres owner Terry Pegula has committed about $140 million to new salaries this off-season in a bid to make Buffalo contenders.
Key acquisitions include defencemen Robyn Regehr and Ehrhoff, who improve a defence that lacked depth, bulk and speed. Centre Ville Leino, signed as a free agent, is being counted on to provide the Sabres a play-making second-line centre to boost the team’s offence.