This was supposed to be a night about new faces and new places.

But this being the Red Wings everything new was old again Wednesday night at Joe Louis Arena where a 2-1 victory over the Buffalo Sabres in the season opener was a reminder that some things simply don’t change.

A reminder too that their rough-and-tumble new neighborhood has a few patsies of its own. The “rebuilding” Sabres were deemed also-rans even before they got out of the gate this season — “This is not exactly a test of mettle for the Red Wings” NBC analyst Mike Milbury grumbled during the first intermission — and Wednesday’s display didn’t do much to dispute that notion.

Still on a night when another sellout crowd of 20066 officially welcomed the team’s Eastern Conference resettlement and on a night they cheered the debuts of Daniel Alfredsson and Stephen Weiss — the Wings’ big offseason free-agent signings — it was less about what they brought and more about what they joined.

First-period goals by Pavel Datsyuk and Mikael Samuelsson provided all the scoring that was needed. Jimmy Howard stopped every shot he faced until he decided to end his own shutout bid with an inadvertent assist in the third period. And — same as it ever was I suppose — the referees did their best to even things up handing Buffalo seven power plays (including two 5-on-3s) in the first two periods and even waving off a good goal by Daniel Cleary for interference.
Tougher competition

This was not a rout but it did seem routine didn’t it? Maybe a bit too routine for coach Mike Babcock’s liking. (“I would’ve liked to see us a little more intense” he said.) Especially with sterner tests looming including Saturday’s trip to Boston to face the defending East champs.

Yet as openers go this was probably the kind of affirmation the Wings needed. The new guys had a chance to get settled the penalty-killing units got a workout and unlike a year ago in that shotgun start after the lockout — you remember the 6-0 shellacking at St. Louis right? — at least the Wings aren’t playing catch-up from the start.

“You’re putting points up on the board now” said Weiss the 12-year NHL veteran who admitted to feeling “anxious” and “nervous” prior to his first regular-season game wearing the winged wheel. “This is the real deal now. You’re starting to count everything.”

The Wings probably weren’t counting on Samuelsson scoring right off the bat but they’ll certainly take it after getting nothing from him in an injury-plagued return to Detroit a year ago.

Babcock admitted it was his mistake that left the Wings’ fourth line on the ice against the Sabres’ top line midway through the first period. But no matter: Hockey has a funny way of rewarding mistakes.

And so it was with Wednesday’s first goal set up by Cory Emmerton a player this team waived and then recalled earlier in the week — “I’d be lying if I told you there wasn’t a little extra fire there” he said — and scored by the 36-year-old Samuelsson a player the Wings wanted to amnesty this summer and most fans understandably want to see replaced with Tomas Tatar or Gustav Nyquist.

“If you ask me I don’t have any doubts I can still play a pretty good game” Samuelsson shrugged. “But it’s easy to stand in here and talk. Hopefully I’ll show it on the ice.”