Some of the Buffalo Sabres' present and some of their future will be on display here tonight when the team opens its preseason schedule.
That's typical for exhibition games, but there are some extra reasons for the young faces to play with a little extra urgency when the Sabres play the Boston Bruins at Blue Cross Arena (7:30, FM 104.1). The Sabres still have five players who have not signed contracts: Miroslav Satan, Curtis Brown, Jay McKee, Rhett Warrener and Vaclav Varada.
That means almost a quarter of the team that reached the Stanley Cup finals isn't in training camp. While no one thinks that all five players will still be holding out when the regular season starts in three weeks, some of them might be sitting and waiting for a new deal at that time.
Coach Lindy Ruff wants to take a good look now at some the young players in camp for evaluation purposes. He figures he can worry later about whether he'll need some of them on Opening Night.
"You have to look at the big picture," Ruff said. "In the short term, you look at it that these players will get signed. There are a few spots that might be up for grabs. As a week or two weeks go by, you might have to shorten your vision and say, 'We might have to fill a hole here and a hole there.'
"For now, you have to think it's all part of the negotiating process. You've got a month of training camp. It's (staying out of camp) common around the league."
Varada already has seen action this season, as he is playing for a team in the Czech Republic while waiting for negotiations with the Sabres to progress. Varada had two assists Friday as his HC Vitkovice team opened its season with a 3-0 victory over Havirov.
Back in this country, the Sabres are scheduled to dress both of their goalies of the future tonight. Martin Biron, who was the American Hockey League's best goalie while playing for the Rochester Americans last season, and Mika Noronen are scheduled to be in uniform.
Buffalo's top two goalies from last season are nursing groin injuries. Dominik Hasek isn't expected to practice with the team for another few days. Dwayne Roloson has missed the past two days with his injury, although he should be returning shortly.
Fans here tonight will see veteran Sabres such as Geoff Sanderson, Stu Barnes, Brian Holzinger, Michal Grosek, Wayne Primeau, Richard Smehlik and Jason Woolley. Also slated to appear are Erik Rasmussen, Jean Luc Grand-Pierre, Cory Sarich, Brian Campbell, Dimitri Kalinin, Domenic Pettis, Maxim Afinogenov, David Moravec, Eric Boulton, Darren Van Oene and Kamil Piros.
The game wraps up the first week of training camp for the Sabres, who will participate in the team's sold out carnival in Marine Midland Arena Sunday afternoon. The next preseason game is Sept. 18 against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Cleveland.