Buffalo Sabres (26-19-4) vs. Carolina Hurricanes (33-9-8)
Puck Drop: 7:30 PM EST | KeyBank Center | Buffalo, NY
Radio: WGR 550
SB Nation Hurricanes Blog: Canes Country
Know Your Opponent
Last Game: 5-4 OT win vs. Kings
Division Ranking: 1st in Metropolitan Division
PP: 19.6% (22nd)
PK: 81.5% (7th)
What to Watch
1. Don’t Count Them Out
After a well deserved three day rest following their successful road trip, the Sabres are back home tonight to face the Hurricanes in their last game before the All-Star break. Carolina currently sits at second in the Eastern Conference with 74 points (as well as second in the league for that matter), and has won six straight games. Over their last 10 games, they have been close to perfect, going 8-1-1, including a 4-1 victory over Boston, the NHL’s best team.
There’s no doubt the Canes will be an incredibly tough test for Buffalo on Wednesday night as they have great depth in every position group and are one of the more complete teams in the NHL. However, the Sabres performance this season has proven to fans that no game is “unwinnable” for them, as they’ve beaten many of the top teams, and on the road no less. As Buffalo is fully rested from a few days off and Carolina is playing a back-to-back, I don’t think getting out to a quick start will be the problem, but rather holding off the Canes barrage for all three periods. The Sabres have a habit of starting out strong and then letting their opponent work back into the game, something Carolina will capitalize on if given the chance.
2. Pesky Canes
Carolina has been a difficult opponent to face for both the Sabres and the rest of the NHL in recent years. In the last 14 matchups against the Canes, dating back to December 2016, Buffalo has only won once (!) in a 4-2 victory at home last April. Now that the Sabres have more speed and talent on the roster, they should be able to matchup better with the skill and experience that Carolina brings to the table. And who knows, if Buffalo is able to make the playoffs, we could see these two teams face off in early May. 2006 called...
More recently, teams in the league have not only struggled to beat the Canes, but also put them away even when they have a solid lead. In the past three games, Carolina has come from behind twice in victories over the Sharks and Kings. San Jose had a 4-2 lead with under two minutes left in the game, while the Kings were up 4-1 early in the third. Both teams collapsed and lost to the Canes in overtime.
3. Game Notes
A huge plus for the Sabres going into the game tonight is the confirmation from Granato that Thompson, Cozens and Samuelsson will be available to play against Carolina. All three players were questionable with day-to-day injuries, and would’ve created big holes in the lineup if unable to go. While Buffalo is relatively healthy heading into this matchup, the Canes will most likely be without their top defender in Jaccob Slavin, who has been battling a lower body injury.
Wednesday night will be the last scheduled game for the Sabres in their new reverse retro jersey, a sweater that has had mixed reviews from the media and fans. Buffalo has posted an even 2-2-2 record in the retros, so hopefully they can close them out with a win and positive record overall.
The Sabres will also be hosting Choose Love Night at the arena, which will spotlight the Black community and locally owned businesses. During warmups, Buffalo will be wearing custom “Choose Love” jerseys, which will be available for auction.
Jeff Skinner - Tage Thompson - Alex Tuch
JJ Peterka - Dylan Cozens - Jack Quinn
Casey Mittelstadt - Tyson Jost - Victor Olofsson
Zemgus Girgensons - Peyton Krebs - Kyle Okposo
Mattias Samuelsson - Rasmus Dahlin
Owen Power - Henri Jokiharju
Jacob Bryson - Kale Clague
Goaltenders: Ukko Pekka Luukkonen (projected starter), Eric Comrie
Scratches: Rasmus Asplund, Ilya Lyubushkin, Craig Anderson
Teuvo Teravainen - Sebastian Aho - Seth Jarvis
Andrei Svechnikov - Jesperi Kotkaniemi - Martin Necas
Jordan Martinook - Jordan Staal - Jesper Fast
Stefan Noesen - Paul Stastny - Derek Stepan
Jalen Chatfield - Brent Burns
Brady Skjei - Brett Pesce
Calvin de Haan - Dylan Coghlan
Goaltenders: Antti Raanta (projected starter), Frederik Anderson
Injuries: Ondrej Kase, Max Pacioretty, Jake Gardiner, Jaccob Slavin