Posted October 07, 2011 on AP on Fox
The Los Angeles Kings and Buffalo Sabres feel like they did enough in the offseason to make themselves Stanley Cup contenders. At the very least, their offseason moves made them winners in their first games. These teams look to build on encouraging openers Saturday when they meet in Berlin in the NHL's first regular-season game played in Germany. After finishing last season tied for the ninth-fewest goals with 219 and being eliminated from the playoffs in the first round, Los Angeles acquired Mike Richards and signed Simon Gagne in hopes of bolstering its offense. Richards made an immediate impact with his new club in Friday's 3-2 win over the New York Rangers in Stockholm, scoring the tying goal with 4:59 remaining in regulation and setting up Jack Johnson's winner 4:08 into overtime. Anze Kopitar also assisted on the winner and opened the scoring 10:51 into the first period. "Mike Richards' line - I thought they played well," coach Terry Murray said. "They were energized, and they did a good job overall in their checking responsibilities." The Sabres opened the season with Friday's impressive 4-1 win over Anaheim in Helsinki. Thomas Vanek scored two power-play goals, captain Jason Pominville added a goal and two assists and Ville Leino also scored. Buffalo signed Leino as a free agent in the offseason with hopes he could provide the team with a play-making second-line center. "I have done it for every team where I've played, and was lucky to do it again," Leino said. "It was cool to do it here in Finland." Ryan Miller finished with 29 saves in front of an upgraded defense. After conceding 229 goals last season and being eliminated from the playoffs in the first round, the Sabres acquired veteran defensemen Robyn Regehr and Christian Ehrhoff. Each were on the ice for a team-high 30 shifts in the opener. Ehrhoff, who assisted on Vanek's second goal, was born in West Germany and was unaware Buffalo was scheduled to play in his homeland when he signed a 10-year, $40 million contract in June. "This was definitely a great bonus," Ehrhoff said. While Ehrhoff is excited about taking the ice in front of plenty of family and friends, fellow countryman Jochen Hecht might not be available. Hecht, one of the longest tenured Sabres, missed the opener due to a head injury sustained on the first day of training camp when he collided with teammate Shaone Morrisonn. Buffalo is 5-1-1 against the Kings since 2003-04, and the clubs will be meeting for the first time since a 4-2 Sabres victory Nov. 19. Vanek, who has led the Sabres in scoring each of the last five seasons, had a goal and an assist. Miller is 3-0-1 with a 1.47 goals-against average and one shutout in his last four starts versus Los Angeles. Although the Kings haven't enjoyed much luck lately in the series, Jonathan Quick has posted a 2.40 GAA in winning his two career starts against the Sabres. Richards, who spent his first six seasons with the Flyers, has also had success against Buffalo, registering nine goals and 10 assists in his last 13 matchups.
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