Anaheim and Buffalo open NHL season in Helsinki
The crowd will be looking for goals from two of Finland's top offensive players.
Anaheim and Buffalo both hope their defenses are what really shine.
The Ducks take on the Sabres in their regular-season opener in Helsinki on Friday as part of the NHL's annual European tour, with Anaheim's Finnish veterans Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu the main attraction.
But it's the defensive side that is the main focus for both teams, who lacked consistency in the back last year and were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.
With new owner Terry Pegula able to splash out money, Buffalo has added defensemen Robyn Regehr and Christian Ehrhoff to a group that also includes Tyler Myers and veteran Jordan Leopold.
Anaheim didn't try to solve its problems with free agents. Instead, the Ducks revamped their defensive system to avoid a repeat of last year's first-round loss against Nashville. That came after a strong finish to the regular season when they won 15 of their final 20 games, which raised expectations of a much deeper run this season.
''We have put in a lot more work from the standpoint of defensive zone coverage,'' Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle said. ''We went through our systems from top to bottom. We'd obviously like to start as we finished last year. We scored enough goals to win the series (against Nashville) but we did not defend well enough. That will be our focus, to be a better defensive hockey club this year. We have to start from the beginning. We can't play catch up in the NHL.''
The Sabres wrapped up their preseason tour with an 8-3 win against Germany's Adler Mannheim on Tuesday. Anaheim has spent most of the week in Finland, beating Selanne's former club, Jokerit, 4-3 in overtime in an exhibition Tuesday.
Friday's game will also be played in Jokerit's Hartwall Arena.
Selanne said he used the opportunity to get his teammates more familiar with his home country's culture.
''Me and Saku and Toni (Lydman) wanted to bring the boys out and see a little bit of Finnish nature and tradition, with sauna and jumping in the cold ocean,'' the 41-year-old forward said. ''It was great. I really believe that's important that we can get the team together and (make it) a little like a team-building event. I knew it was a big experience for the boys, and we had a lot of fun.''