Game of the night: Buffalo (30-22-6) at Philadelphia (30-16-9) — Vanek, Biron, Miller, Connolly, Carter, Mike Richards, Brad Richards, Giroux, Kovalev, Rivet

Sabres left wing Thomas Vanek (broken jaw) is out until early March

Sabres left wing Thomas Vanek (broken jaw) is out until early March

The Buffalo Sabres have played four games since the left wing depicted on the left, Thomas Vanek, suffered the broken jaw that will sideline him until early March.

In those four games, the Sabres scored one vs. Ottawa, six vs. San Jose, zero vs. Carolina, and four at Toronto. In other words, it’s been feast or famine.

So what happens tonight at Philadelphia? I’m guessing the Sabres score three goals.

Yes, Flyers goalie Martin Biron has been hot lately. He is coming off a 5-1 win vs. the Islanders on Saturday and a 5-2 win at the Rangers on Sunday.

But this group of Sabres, even without Vanek, has forgotten more about scoring than the 2008-09 Rangers and Islanders will ever learn. Biron may get the win, but his track record (17-11-5, .908, 2.87) suggests he’s hardly bulletproof.

Then again, the last time these teams played, in Buffalo on November 21, Biron made 40 saves in a 3-0 shutout. Of course, what that also means is that the Sabres mustered 40 shots on Biron, while the Flyers, for their part, launced 24 shots on Sabres goalie Ryan Miller, who stopped 22 (an empty netter created the 3-0 final).

For fantasy purposes, there are three players worth watching tonight. All three are widely available in ESPN and Yahoo! leagues:

Sabres center Tim Connolly (38.3 percent owned in ESPN leagues, 29 percent in Yahoo!): he has six goals, eight assists, +6 and six PIM in the last month, not to mention six PPP. Those numbers make him the third-highest ranked fantasy center in that span. Tonight, he’ll be going up against Flyers studs like Mike Richards and Jeff Carter. If Connolly produces under those circumstances, you can rest assured he’s a No. 2 fantasy center going forward, an ideal replacement for injured Dallas center Brad Richards (right wrist).

Flyers right wing Claude Giroux (two percent owned in ESPN leagues, three percent in Yahoo!): the rookie has three goals, five assists, +5 and 12 PIM in the last month.  He was especially impressive in the 5-2 road win against the Rangers, notching one goal, two assists, +2, three shots on goal, and two PIM. If you’re looking for a right wing to replace Alexei Kovalev (ineffectiveness) during his sabbatical from the Canadiens, Giroux is a terrific candidate. He won’t get much power-play action because of how loaded the Flyers are, but he’ll help in every other category.

Sabres defenseman Craig Rivet (63.6 percent owned in ESPN leagues, 29 percent in Yahoo!): he has one goal, eight assists, +6 and 26 PIM in the last month. If a key to your team is getting the unsexy stats (PIM, +/-) from your No. 3 and No. 4 defensemen, Rivet is a gem. But in the November 21 game against the Flyers, he went -3. A good performance tonight would cement his return to fantasy viability.

photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons


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