Puck Drop: 7:00 PM EST | KeyBank Center | Buffalo, NY
Radio: WGR 550
SB Nation Hurricanes Blog:Canes Country
Know Your Opponent
Record: (26-21-6) | 58 PTS
Last 10: 6-3-1
Division Ranking: 5th in Metropolitan Division
Conference Ranking: 10th in Eastern Conference
PP: 26th (15.9%)
PK: 15th (79.8%)
What to Watch
1. Ebb and flow
With thirty games left in the season, it seems silly to put so much weight on these midseason drudge matches. The fact is, though, the wheat is quickly separating from the chaff, and Buffalo is a hull gently falling to the ground in the hope of becoming a harvest next season.
These two points are key; Carolina and Buffalo are deadlocked at 58 points, with the Sabres holding a game in hand. Keeping the distance between themselves and the Canes is integral as the team tries to claw back into the race.
The Sabres also need this win to keep pace with Columbus. The Blue Jackets remain three points ahead of Buffalo for the final wild card spot, and are set up nicely with an easy matchup in Arizona.
It’s getting more and more difficult to make up the lost ground of the last 30 games. After Tuesday’s big win, Buffalo needs to keep rolling if they’re going to keep playoff hopes alive.
2. His name is Linus
The city of Buffalo owes Carter Hutton a distinct debt of gratitude. Hutton’s heroics were unquestionably the driving force behind Buffalo’s 10-game winning streak to set them up as nicely as they are now.
Since then, though, Hutton has faltered, which isn’t at all a condemnation of the netminder. He still has an important role with the club. The truth is that he was brought here to bridge the gap between the AHL version of Linus Ullmark and the NHL version of Linus Ullmark.
It may have happened sooner than the team expected, but we are seeing an NHL-ready rookie in Ullmark. He’s emerging as a quality starting goaltender, and it’s becoming more noticeable.
It’s time the team do the right thing and name Ullmark the number one. He’s done more than prove his worth in his first full year in the league.
3. Some Skin in the game
Is it wrong to criticize the team’s only thirty-goal scorer in the 2018-19 season? Maybe. But for all of his production early on, Skinner hasn’t been the same lately. He’s got only one goal in the last five games, despite increased minutes - nearly three full minutes above his season average in the last handful of matches.
Coach Phil Housley is trying to give the star the time he needs to put the puck in the net, but it isn’t happening right now, and the results have not been great for the Sabres. In those same five games, Buffalo has won two.
There is no question that the team needs scoring support from its depth lines, but in these dreary February days, the Sabres also need a spark from their top players. The team (Skinner’s upcoming contract negotiations) would benefit greatly from a multi-point game.
Jeff Skinner-Jack Eichel-Jason Pominville
Conor Sheary-Casey Mittelstadt-Sam Reinhart
CJ Smith-Evan Rodrigues-Kyle Okposo
Zemgus Girgensons-Johan Larsson-Vladimir Sobotka
Rasmus Dahlin-Rasmus Ristolainen
Lawrence Pilut-Zach Bogosian
Marco Scandella-Jake McCabe
Nathan Beaulieu-Matt Hunwick
Starting Goaltender: Linus Ullmark
Nino Niederreiter - Sebastian Aho - Justin Williams
Michael Ferland - Lucas Wallmark - Teuvo Teravainen
Andrei Svechnikov - Jordan Martinook - Brock McGinn
Warren Foegele - Greg McKegg - Saku Maenalanen
Jaccob Slavin - Dougie Hamilton
Brett Pesce - Justin Faulk
Calvin de Haan - Trevor van Riemsdyk
Starting Goaltender: Petr Mrazek