The Buffalo Sabres filled HSBC Arena on their own the past two years. This season, they'll get help from some old friends -- and two local boys.
The Sabres' 2007-08 season will feature one reunion after another downtown, so fans who packed away their jerseys of departed standouts will get a chance to dig them out. Martin Biron, Daniel Briere, Chris Drury, J.P. Dumont, Dominik Hasek and Jay McKee are all scheduled to visit Buffalo. Aside from Hasek, it will be the first trip back for each of them since they left the Sabres.
The NHL announced the schedule Wednesday afternoon, and it's likely Dec. 15 was circled on calendars throughout South Buffalo by nightfall. Local hero Patrick Kane, the first overall pick in this year's draft, and his Chicago Blackhawks visit the arena just before Christmas as a present to everyone who watched him grow up. The 18-year-old is expected to make the Blackhawks' roster.
All of those reunions, however, could be trumped by a New Year's Day matinee. The Sabres host Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins at 1 p.m. Jan. 1, and various sources maintain the game will be played outdoors in Ralph Wilson Stadium. The Sabres declined to name the site of the contest.
Barring injuries, one certainty is several former fan favorites will be back at the foot of Main Street. The most anticipated comebacks involve Drury and Briere, the co-captains who found new homes last week. Fans will have to wait awhile, though.
Briere, Biron and the rest of the Philadelphia Flyers visit Buffalo twice, the first coming Dec. 21. It's the start of two games in two nights between the teams, which play in Philadelphia on Dec. 22. The Flyers come back to Buffalo on Feb. 25.
Two nights earlier, fans will finally get an up-close look at Drury in a New York Rangers jersey. The Blue shirts and their new center play in HSBC Arena on Feb. 23 and March 10.
McKee will be the first ex-patriot to visit wearing opposing colors. The defenseman, who signed with St. Louis last July, comes to Buffalo with the Blues on Nov. 28. That game will also be the Buffalo debut for West Seneca native Lee Stempniak.
Dumont, who also left last summer, returns with the Nashville Predators on Feb. 27. Both players welcomed the Sabres to their new cities last December.
Hasek never fails to get a reaction from Buffalo fans. The legendary goaltender invades HSBC Arena at 3 p.m. March 2 as a member of the Detroit Red Wings.
The Sabres' season starts with two games against another former team member, coach Ted Nolan. The campaign begins at home Oct. 5 when the New York Islanders visit. The teams travel to Long Island the next night for Game Two of 82. The Sabres play five of their first six at home.
The team will hold 14 of its 41 home games on Friday nights. The start time for all will be 7:30 p.m., up a half-hour from previous years to allow the Sabres to get to their Saturday road games earlier.
In addition to the Jan. 1 and March 2 games, the Sabres host two other matinees. They welcome the Penguins again Feb. 17 (1 p.m.) and close their home schedule with a 3 p.m. meeting with Boston on March 30. All other games are 7 p.m.
The Sabres' longest stretch away from HSBC Arena comes in the middle of winter. They kick off a seven-game road trip Jan. 19 in Toronto and don't play at home again until Feb. 6. Their farthest journey is during the first week of December when they play at Anaheim, Los Angeles and San Jose. The Sabres end the season with three straight road games, the final one coming April 5 in Boston.
Box office pricing and game designations (gold, silver, bronze, value) will be announced by the team at a later date.
Fri., Oct. 5: Islanders, 7:30
Sat., Oct. 6: @ Islanders, 7:00
Thu., Oct. 11: Thrashers, 7:00
Sat., Oct. 13: Capitals, 7:00
Mon., Oct. 15: Maple Leafs, 7:00
Fri., Oct. 19: Blue Jackets, 7:30
Sat., Oct. 20: @ Canadiens, 7:00
Wed., Oct. 24: @ Hurricanes, 7:00
Fri., Oct. 26: @ Panthers, 7:30
Sat., Oct. 27: @ Lightning, 7:30
Thu., Nov. 1: @ Bruins, 7:00
Fri., Nov. 2: Panthers, 7:30
Mon., Nov. 5: @ Canadiens, 7:30
Wed., Nov. 7: Bruins, 7:00
Fri., Nov. 9: Maple Leafs, 7:30
Sat., Nov. 10: @ Bruins, 7:00
Thu., Nov. 15: @ Senators, 7:30
Fri., Nov. 16: Canadiens, 7:30
Wed., Nov. 21: Senators, 7:00
Fri., Nov. 23: Canadiens, 7:30
Sat., Nov. 24: @ Canadiens, 7:00
Mon., Nov. 26: @ Capitals, 7:00
Wed., Nov. 28: Blues, 7:00
Sat., Dec. 1: Hurricanes, 7:00
Wed., Dec. 5: @ Ducks, 10:00
Thu., Dec. 6: @ Kings, 10:30
Sat., Dec. 8: @ Sharks, 10:30
Mon., Dec. 10: Bruins, 7:00
Wed., Dec. 12: Islanders, 7:00
Fri., Dec. 14: @ Capitals, 7:00
Sat., Dec. 15: Blackhawks, 7:00
Wed., Dec. 19: @ Islanders, 7:00
Fri., Dec. 21: Flyers, 7:30
Sat., Dec. 22: @ Flyers, 7:00
Wed., Dec. 26: Senators, 7:00
Fri., Dec. 28: @ Devils, 7:00
Sat., Dec. 29: @ Penguins, 7:30
Tue., Jan. 1: Penguins, 1:00
Fri., Jan. 4: Senators, 7:30
Sun., Jan. 6: @ Thrashers, 2:00
Tue., Jan. 8: @ Devils, 7:00
Thu., Jan. 10: @ Senators, 7:30
Sat., Jan. 12: Devils, 7:00
Wed., Jan. 16: @ Rangers, 7:00
Fri., Jan. 18: Thrashers, 7:30
Sat., Jan. 19: @ Maple Leafs, 7:00
Mon., Jan. 21: @ Coyotes, 4:00
Thu., Jan. 24: @ Stars, 8:30
Tue., Jan. 29: @ Lightning, 7:30
Wed., Jan. 30: @ Panthers, 7:30
Fri., Feb. 1: @ Thrashers, 7:30
Tue., Feb. 5: @ Bruins, 7:00
Wed., Feb. 6: Devils, 7:00
Fri., Feb. 8: Bruins, 7:30
Sun., Feb. 10: Panthers, 7:00
Tue., Feb. 12: @ Senators, 7:30
Wed., Feb. 13: Maple Leafs, 7:00
Sat., Feb. 16: @ Rangers, 1:00
Sun., Feb. 17: Penguins, 1:00
Wed., Feb. 20: Lightning, 7:00
Thu., Feb. 21: @ Maple Leafs, 7:30
Sat., Feb. 23: Rangers, 7:00
Mon., Feb. 25: Flyers, 7:00
Wed., Feb. 27: Predators, 7:00
Fri., Feb. 29: Canadiens, 7:30
Sun., March 2: Red Wings, 3:00
Tue., March 4: @ Flyers, 7:00
Wed., March 5: Capitals, 7:00
Sat., March 8: @ Hurricanes, 7:00
Mon., March 10: Rangers, 7:00
Wed., March 12: @ Penguins, 7:30
Fri., March 14: Hurricanes, 7:30
Sat., March 15: @ Maple Leafs, 7:00
Wed., March 19: Lightning, 7:00
Fri., March 21: Maple Leafs, 7:30
Tue., March 25: Senators, 7:00
Thu., March 27: @ Senators, 7:30
Fri., March 28: Canadiens, 7:30
Sun., March 30: Bruins, 3:00
Tue., Apr. 1: @ Maple Leafs, 7:30
Thu., Apr. 3: @ Canadiens, 7:30
Sat., Apr. 5: @ Bruins, 7:00