COMMENTARY | While the recent preseason tussle with the Toronto Maple Leafs is fresh in our minds, it's time to look ahead at the regular season and highlight the dates for the top Buffalo Sabres rivalries for the 2013-14 National Hockey League season. Some of the rivalries have been brewing for years, while other rivalries are being brought back thanks to key personnel moves. These are four series to watch this season.
Sabres v. Dallas Stars - The Sabres and Stars rivalry goes back to the 1999 Stanley Cups finals and the infamous "No Goal" call; the Sabres were coached by Lindy Ruff at the time. This year, Ruff comes back to Buffalo, but goes to the visitors' dressing room as the new head coach of the Stars. The announcement of Ruff's hiring was made one day after the 14th anniversary of the controversial Brett Hull goal, and Ruff alluded to the play in his first presser as Stars' coach: "I said to Jim (Nill, general manager) when I first agreed to meet with, 'I'll meet with you, but not in the crease.'" The Sabres and the Stars play on Monday, October 28 in Buffalo and Monday, March 3 in Dallas.
Sabres v. Pittsburgh Penguins - This one actually boils down to a two-player match-up: Sabres superstar goalie Ryan Miller v. Penguins superstar forward Sidney Crosby. From Crosby's shootout goal against Miller in the inaugural Winter Classic on January 1, 2008 to Crosby's game-winner against Miller in the 2010 Winter Olympics, the match-up between these two athletes is one to watch every season. The Sabres and Pens play Saturday, October 5 and Monday, January 27 in Pittsburgh and Wednesday, February 5 in Buffalo.
Sabres v. Toronto Maple Leafs - Separated by the QEW, the Sabres/Leafs rivalry dates back to the Sabres' inception in 1970 as cross-town rivals, and in the 1990s the rivalry was spurred on with each Rob Ray-Tie Domi showdown. The last few years, however, the rivalry has heated up again, as the Leafs were continuously stonewalled by Miller; it all came to a head on Sunday, September 22 of this year during the preseason match-up in Toronto, when a line brawl resulted in more than 200 minutes in penalties between the two teams and even saw Miller and Toronto goalie Jonathan Bernier get into the tussle. The Sabres and Leafs meet Friday, November 15 and Friday, November 29 in Buffalo and Saturday, November 16, Friday, December 27 and Wednesday, January 15 in Toronto.
Sabres v. Boston Bruins - Another long-time rivalry, this match-up came to a head in November 2011, after Bruins forward Milan Lucic laid out Miller in the first period of a game in Boston - as if the years of playoff agony in the face of the Bruins wasn't enough in the 1980s and early 1990s. The two teams meet Wednesday, October 23, Thursday, December 19 and Wednesday, February 26 in Buffalo and Saturday, December 21 and Saturday, April 12 in Boston.
Paula is a freelance writer and photographer and lifelong Buffalo resident who has watched the Sabres through the thrill of victory - "May Day" - and the agony of defeat - "No Goal."
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