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Buffalo soldiers

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

About the only question being asked of the Northeast Division before the season was, “Who’s going to finish second?”

Maybe that’s still the most pertinent query, considering the Buffalo Sabres’ hot start.

The Sabres lead a division almost everyone thought would be dominated by the Boston Bruins, even if the B’s had some off-season losses to overcome.

But Ryan Miller’s ascent to the top of the goaltending charts has gone hand-in-hand with Buffalo’s team commitment to defense.

Through 17 games the Sabres were giving up just 2.18 goals per game, the second-best mark in the league behind the New Jersey Devils.

Scoring has been pretty spread out among the Sabres, but the team definitely relies on a defense-first approach to winning.

It will be interesting to see if Buffalo continues to occupy the Northeast penthouse once Boston gets some bodies back from the infirmary. Given the way things have unfolded so far, don’t expect the Sabres to be anxious to move.

RK.

TEAM

LW

OVERALL

L10

THE SCOOP

1

2

14-4-0

9-1-0

No captain and team make a better pair than Jamie Langenbrunner and the Devils

2

1

14-4-4

7-0-3

Killing penalties at a league-leading rate of 87.8 percent

3

4

12-4-4

6-2-2

Mike Knuble breaks his finger just as Ovie is ready to get back in the lineup

4

9

12-4-1

7-3-0

Maybe the most balanced team in the league right now

5

12

12-5-0

7-2-1

Have won four straight since Jonathan Toews came back from his concussion – and the captain has four points in those games

6

5

12-4-2

7-2-1

Iggy has seven goals in six November games

7

15

10-5-3

7-2-1

Offense kicks into high gear with 19 goals in its past three games

8

7

13-7-0

4-6-0

Crosby didn't score in the seven games Malkin missed, but found the net in Geno's first game back

9

6

10-5-1

7-3-0

Despite all the headaches he caused him, Bob Clarke says Eric Lindros should enter the Hall of Fame next year

10

25

10-6-1

6-4-0

Everything is clicking right now in Hotlanta, even Maxim Afinogenov

11

19

8-5-6

4-3-3

Coach Marc Crawford is doing a nice job with a team that's an intriguing mix of youth and vets

12

3

12-5-3

5-4-1

An 8-2 loss to Vancouver puts Avs on three-game losing streak as they start falling back to Earth after unexpectedly hot start

13

8

12-7-2

5-3-2

Young defenseman Jack Johnson has just five points in 21 games and is minus-10

14

20

9-8-1

7-3-0

Maybe a two-goal performance versus the Habs on Saturday will get Steve Sullivan going

15

10

11-10-0

5-5-0

Henrik Sedin's hat trick versus Colorado Saturday was the first in an NHL career that's almost 700 games deep

16

17

8-6-3

3-4-3

Pascal Leclaire needs better numbers than a 2.89 goals-against average and an .892 save percentage

17

18

8-7-4

4-3-3

Loss to the Pens was the first time in November where the Bruins allowed more than two goals

18

11

10-6-2

5-3-2

Must have next contest with Wings (Boxing Day) circled after Detroit laid a 9-1 whuppin' on them last week

19

16

7-4-6

5-1-4

Antero Niittymaki is one of the league's best goalies right now; let's see if the historically streaky stopper can keep it up

20

14

11-8-1

4-5-1

It wasn't quite Marek Malik from a few years back, but Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau's shootout-winner in the seventh round against Ottawa certainly registers as a surprise

21

13

11-8-0

5-5-0

Desert Dogs are really banged up on the blueline

22

26

7-6-7

6-2-2

Josh Bailey's struggles culminated with a healthy scratch last week against Carolina

23

23

9-11-0

4-6-0

Twenty games into the season, the Habs have just two regulation-time wins on the books

24

28

7-9-1

5-4-1

Who knows, maybe having their ownership issues resolved will help the Cats get on course

25

27

7-11-2

4-4-2

A team that has just two road wins better take advantage of the four-game homestand it begins Wednesday versus Phoenix

26

21

6-9-3

3-5-2

Both Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry are on 11-game point streaks, but the Ducks can't get into gear

27

29

6-8-4

2-5-3

2.28 goals per game just not enough to earn wins consistently in the ultra-tough West

28

24

3-10-5

3-3-4

Teams score almost 30 percent of the time Toronto is shorthanded

29

22

8-10-2

2-7-1

Just two wins in their past 11 outings

30

30

3-12-4

1-7-2

Fourteen-game losing streak finally snapped with a shootout win over the Wild. Have these guys been downgraded to the Carolina Tropical Storms yet?

The Hockey News ranks the teams 1-30 each Monday based on a combination of last week’s play and a squad’s overall outlook.

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