Following on Ogie's post, here' s my proposed opening day lineup for the playoff bound Buffalo Sabres:
Vanek - Roy - Stafford
Pominville - Hecht - Paille
Afinogenov - Connolly - Kotalik
Kaleta - Mair - Macarthur
Peters - Mancari - (Gaustad is out 4-6 weeks)
Rivet - Lydman
Spacek - Sekera
Numminen - Tallinder
That first line scored 84 goals last year, even though Stafford was limited to 64 games and played hurt in most of the games he actually appeared in. Stafford is the Sabres equivalent to Dubinsky. Young, big, strong, skilled, tough. He was a force down the stretch 2 years ago but just could not stay healthy last year.
The second line scored 68 goals last year, including Paille's 19 in fairly limited time. He is going to be a consistent two-way forward for Buffalo for a long time.
The key for the third line will be staying healthy. All 3 players are in contract years, and will be motivated to play. I've said this before, but in 05-06 Afinogenov, Connolly and Kotalik were all in contract years. They played together as a line and finished 1/3/5 in scoring on an absolutely loaded offensive team with Briere, Drury, Dumont, Vanek, Roy, Pominville, Hecht, Campbell. If all 3 can stay healthy this year, they could each approach a point a game.
The fourth line will be an energy line with some skill. Mair has decent hands and can make plays, and Macarthur is a proven scorer in the minors that has all the tools to score in the NHL. When Gaustad returns from injury, he'll play center and allow them to play a shut down role as well.
IMO, the Sabres have 3 #2 pairings. That can be a good thing and a bad thing. The minutes will be evently distributed (with Numminen getting a little extra rest I'm sure), which will help down the stretch. But there will be no "shut-down" pair.
The biggest wildcard is Sekera, who spent the last few months of last season in Buffalo after starting in Rochester. For about the last 15 games, he was Buffalo's best defenseman - period. Sekera is a smooth skater that can handle the puck, play the PP, and is pretty good in his defensive zone. He is quite similar to Campbell, and actually fit in very nicely in Buffalo after Campbell was sent to San Jose. Like Campbell, he was the defenseman of the year in the OHL. But at 22, he is MUCH further along than Campbell was at that age, and he is ready to be an everyday NHLer.
As for the goalies, who the hell knows what you are going to get out of Miller. The biggest thing Buffalo learned last year was that Miller CANNOT play 75 games. I firmly believe that Buffalo threw the season away by not playing Thibeault more. Granted, his play didn't instill much confidence, but that is to be expected when you get a start every 6 weeks. Lindy Ruff recently announced that Lalime (who had a good year last year) will play between 20 and 30 games. 30 sounds high, but if Lalime can play 20 games of 500 hockey, Miller will have the rest he needs to return to All-Star form.