Game Preview: Dallas Stars @ Buffalo Sabres

When you're not scoring many goals, sudden death is a perfect way to entice hockey viewers. The Buffalo Sabres have gone beyond 60 minutes to win two consecutive matches and they've done it with a total of five goals. More importantly, they put an end to a nauseating eight-game road winless skid in New York on Sunday.

Dallas is on the outside looking in with the Western Conference as tight as it is and must put together a steady run in order to reach the postseason. Two points earned in Washington on Monday is a start, one which could to be a turning point in their season as they clawed back from 2-0 down to eventually win a shoot-out.

Buffalo has won the last four against Dallas including last year when they stormed back from a 3-0 and 4-2 deficit. It's never easy predicting a game between two foes who only see each other once in a campaign.

Ten additional thoughts on the game:

  • Let's get the East-against-West records out of the way. Buffalo is 9-4-2 but have lost five of their last six to the opposing Conference and Dallas is 6-7-2 versus the East.
  • I stand by my prediction that Patrick Kaleta will someday become a player comparable to Alexandre Burrows in Vancouver. Kaleta, who scored the overtime winner against the Rangers, has nine goals and 14 points in just 45 games. Over the course of a full season, he would have 16 goals and 25 points. He has made tremendous leaps in his skating and overall game during his third full year (played seven games in 2007). Burrows had 12 goals in his third season and came out of nowhere with 28 in his fourth. While the Canucks forward did benefit from line-mates such as the Sedin twins, the 20-goal plateau could be achieved by Kaleta in 2011.
  • Marty Turco stood on his head and just about every other part of his body in stonewalling the Capitals with 49 saves. The 34-year-old also stopped all four shooters in the break-away competition that featured this awkward moment from Alexander Semin.
  • If you didn't see it, here's Ryan Miller's answer to any questions regarding fatigue from the Olympics. The tournament MVP has handled 62 of 65 shots in the two previous wins. With his consistency, do we call that the standard or average? 
  • A few names stand out when thinking of Dallas, but to me, this is Brad Richards' team at least on the offensive side of it. The former Conn Smythe winner has answered his pundits with 71 points after an injury-riddled year in 2009. A total of 22 multi-point games is what really defines his resurgence.
  • Slumping Sabres: Drew Stafford (seven games), Mike Grier (18 games) and Tim Kennedy (nine games) have all failed to catch any breaks or fluke bounces for goals. How the mighty have fallen.
  • Mark Mancari will continue to get extra playing time in Stafford's absence. The jury is still out on his NHL qualifications because of how unfocused he looked in brief segments a few days ago.
  • Raffi Torres' track record with Dallas is decent (seven goals, 11 points in 19 contests). He has an assist and plus-one rating while continuing to bond with his teammates and learn their tendencies. The third game may be the charm for that first goal in a Sabres uniform.
  • One of the more underrated defenseman, Stephane Robidas is the type of competitor I would love to see on Buffalo's blue line. He hits, produces offensively, quarterbacks a powerplay, blocks shots and has good vision. Did I miss anything?
  • Speaking of powerplays, Buffalo's has become so depressing (to the tune of 16.9 per cent) that groans are often heard when they receive a man-advantage. Nothing is really working, for us anyways. The penalty-killers are having a blast with our powerplay units. 

Ottawa and Buffalo are tied at 79 points apiece with the Senators owning two more wins and the Sabres having three games in hand. This race for Northeast Division supremacy may come down to the season's closing days. Despite the Stars being a Western squad, every win is crucial for confidence if not the standings.

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