Buffalo Sabres (33-28-6) at Philadelphia Flyers (24-32-11)
Puck Drop: 7:00 PM EST | Wells Fargo Center | Philadelphia PA
TV: MSG, ESPN+
Radio: WGR 550
SB Nation Flyers Blog: Broad Street Hockey
Know Your Opponent
Last Game: 5-3 loss against Vegas Golden Knights
Division Ranking: 7th in Metropolitan Division
PP: 14.9% (32nd)
PK: 74.5% (27th)
What to Watch For
1. Stand Up and Be Counted
The rubber has met the road and the Sabres are skidding out of control. General Manager Kevyn Adams and head coach Don Granato are learning a lot about their young squad as they are getting put through the grinder playing games that matter in March.
Last week Granato said -
“Everything all year long is an evaluation. You’re going to have to react on things all the time. The season itself is an evaluation. It’s ongoing. It’s what we do is continue to evaluate to make decisions for the next day.”
Victor Olofsson has been a favored punching bag for some time now so we’ll leave him alone, but the defense really needs to step it up. The group of Jacob Bryson, Henri Jokiharju, Riley Stillman and Kale Clague have been prone to errors and their inconsistency is a big reason why a wildcard spot hasn’t been sewn up yet.
It’s almost unfair to pick on Tage Thompson, especially when you try to match up expectations of him at the beginning of the season to where he is now in the scoring charts, but he has not scored a goal in the last six Sabres games. He has certainly been involved in other ways, but it’s his goals that Buffalo need the most right now, even as they average just under three goals a game for the last half dozen contests.
That they need to score so many to win has a lot to do with their poor defensive workrate, and a combination of poorly timed errors and bad puck luck. The Sabres certainly do know how to play defense, and have shown it in flashes especially after that humiliation by the Dallas Stars. However, the way they imploded in Washington to blow two-goal leads on three separate occasions was honestly embarrassing, and they will need to show a lot more discipline tonight against a struggling Flyers team to pick up two points.
2. Special Teams Opportunities
On that point about being disciplined, Alex Tuch raised his hand to accept his part in that Capitals defeat, with his late third period penalty allowing the hosts to get a 6-on-4 power play and the equalizer as well.
The Flyers are an awful team on both special teams aspects, with the worst power play unit in the league, and a 27th-placed penalty kill, which by the way is only marginally better than the Sabres who are now second-worst in the league.
For Buffalo to make the playoffs, they are going to need to be better at not taking penalties and then killing them off when they do. It seems obvious, but it needs to get fixed no matter what.
3. Wacky Wildcard Races
We’re passed the halfway point of March and believe it or not, the Sabres are still in with a chance. Unfortunately, of the seven teams jockeying for the two open spots, the Sabres have the worst record in their last ten games (bar Detroit, who are pretty much done anyway).
With just 15 games left to play for Buffalo, Granato’s boys are running out of opportunities to make up ground on the teams head of them. Right now the Pittsburgh Penguins are in pole position with both points in the bag and games in hand. The New York Islanders match them on points but have played more games. The Sabres’ advantage in point percentage has dwindled to where they will need something like twenty-plus points to nab one of those open spots, which pretty much makes every game a must-win, including tonight at the Flyers.
Jeff Skinner - Tage Thompson - Alex Tuch
JJ Peterka - Dylan Cozens - Jack Quinn
Jordan Greenway - Tyson Jost - Casey Mittelstadt
Zemgus Girgensons - Peyton Krebs - Kyle Okposo
Rasmus Dahlin - Jacob Bryson
Owen Power - Henri Jokiharju
Riley Stillman - Ilya Lyubushkin
Goaltenders: Craig Anderson (projected starter), Ukko Pekka Luukkonen
Scratches: Vinnie Hinostroza, Victor Olofsson, Kale Clague
Injuries: Mattias Samuelsson, Eric Comrie
*Only an optional skate this morning, so the exact lineups will only be confirmed at game time.
Joel Farabee - Kevin Hayes - Owen Tippett
Scott Laughton - Noah Cates - Tyson Foerster
James van Riemsdyk - Morgan Frost - Brendan Lemieux
Nicolas Deslauriers - Tanner Laczynski - Wade Allison
Ivan Provorov - Cam York
Travis Sanheim - Rasmus Ristolainen
Nick Seeler - Tony DeAngelo
Goaltenders: Carter Hart (projected starter), Felix Sandstrom
Injuries: Ryan Ellis IR, Sean Couturier IR, Bobby Brink IR, Cam Atkinson IR, Travis Konecny IR