BUFFALO (LGS) — A case of the Northwest fever will come over the city of Buffalo for the next five days as the Sabres host two Northwest Division teams in a week. It all begins Saturday night as they welcome ex-Sabres' defenseman Rhett Warrener and the Calgary Flames to HSBC Arena at 7 p.m. (MSG-TV/WGR-AM).
Warrener, many fans may recall, was traded before the 2003-2004 season to Calgary in the deal that brought co-captain Chris Drury to Buffalo.
It is unclear, however, if Warrener will play. He has missed the previous two games with an arm injury. But he has been traveling with the team and could suit up and play against his ex-mates.
Drury, who played one season with the Flames after being traded from the Colorado Avalanche, leads Buffalo in goals and power-play goals this season.
The game, too, represents something historically good for the Sabres and their fans, even if they may not realize it.
The Sabres have a six-game home unbeaten streak against the Flames. Oddly, though, thanks to two different scheduling formulas and one lockout, the teams haven’t squared off in Buffalo since Nov. 23, 2001. The Sabres defeated the Flames 5-2 that night, but both teams have changed considerably in the five plus years since that game.
For starters, Calgary now boasts one of the most dynamic players the league has seen in decades in forward Jarome Iginla, as well as all-world goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff, the defending Vezina trophy winner for the best goaltender last season.
But the Sabres are winners of four of their last five games and look to continue their hot streak. After a horrible January, the Sabres have been seizing February and not letting it slip through their fingertips. The team looks to be back on track, and coach Lindy Ruff believes that his team has shown hints of its former self.
"I think we're regaining a little bite, a little attitude, a little bit of the physical tone that I thought was missing," Ruff said. "The message was, 'If you guys want something, you have to earn it.'"
On the injury front for Buffalo, there is mixed news. Defenseman Jaroslav Spacek, who has missed the previous three games with a knee strain, appears to be ready to return to the lineup.
However, Paul Gaustad’s deep cut he suffered while killing a penalty in Wednesday night’s victory over the Ottawa Senators will keep him out of the lineup Saturday, and possibly beyond. Ruff said Gaustad's ankle is still swollen and he will have tests to make sure there is no further damage to the bone or nerves.
Nathan Paetsch will replace Gaustad up top as the defenseman will play the left wing slot on the fourth line with Jiri Novotny and Adam Mair.
The Flames come into this game red-hot, despite narrowly losing their last game 2-1 to the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Flames attained points in the eight games before their trip to Columbus opened a three-game road trip, posting a 5-0-3 record.
"Our top players didn't play well at all," Flames' head coach Jim Playfair said of the Columbus game. Playfair is the younger brother of former Sabres forward Larry Playfair.
The Sabres’ season-high, six-game homestand continues Thursday against the Edmonton Oilers at 7 p.m..