Sabres Clash with Canes in Carolina
Buffalo looks to snap losing streak at PNC Arena dating back to 2016.
Buffalo Sabres (7-3-0) vs. Carolina Hurricanes (7-2-1)
Puck Drop: 7:00 PM EST | PNC Arena | Raleigh, NC
TV: ESPN+, Hulu
Radio: WGR 550
SB Nation Hurricanes Blog: Canes Country
Know Your Opponent
Last Game: 4-3 (SO) W @ Lightning
Division Ranking: 2nd in Metro Division
PP: 17.1% (25th)
PK: 76.9% (20th)
What to Watch
1. Power Play Improves
To start off the season, surprisingly enough the Sabres main issue appeared to be their power play production above all else. The problem wasn’t a lack of experience or skill on the power play, as players like Olofsson, Thompson, Dahlin and plenty of others are more than capable in that role. Despite the slow start, Buffalo has shown improvement over the past few games, not only increasing their power play numbers but also helping propel them on a three-game winning streak. Over the course of those three wins, the Sabres have scored 18 goals, with almost a third of them (5) coming on the power play. Those 5 goals were more than Buffalo had produced total on the power play during the first seven games of the season, on far fewer opportunities.
Power play scoring will be crucial to Buffalo’s success over the course of the season, as it can help make up for lack of 5v5 pressure or a poor performance in the defensive end. If the Sabres can produce at a rate even close to what they have the last three games, they should have no trouble continuing to average between 3-4 goals a game, which will also take some pressure off Comrie or Anderson if they aren’t playing stellar that night.
2. Rock You Like a Hurricane
While the Sabres will look to continue their winning streak on the road tonight, the Canes also have a three-game winning streak of their own currently. Buffalo went 1-2 against Carolina last season and has gone 1-6-3 against them in the last 10, with no victories coming at PNC Arena since 2016. If the Sabres want to break that abysmal trend and prevent the storm surge (ugh), they need to create pressure early and often, especially as they will once again face a backup in Antti Raanta. However, even Raanta is one of the better backup goaltenders in the league, starting off this season with a 2-0-1 record with a 2.23 GAA and .913 save percentage, and has a 5-3 lifetime record against Buffalo.
The main key to victory for the Sabres will be to follow the blueprint they had in their win against Pittsburgh, and take advantage of a team with tired legs on a back-to-back. The Canes had to play extra time to beat the Lightning in a shootout on Thursday night, so Buffalo needs to get out to a quick start and force Carolina to keep up with their pace of play.
3. Defensive Development
If any one group has shown huge improvement up until this point in the new season, it’s the Sabres defensive core. Last game against the Pens, both former number 1 overall picks Dahlin and Power played huge roles against an experienced lineup, while playing 29:25 and 23:52 respectively. Those are a lot of minutes to eat up, especially for Power who is only 19, but both guys were sensational as they finished the night with 2 assists each and a combined +4 rating. Those are the kind of numbers you need to see from your best defensemen, especially with Samuelsson and Jokiharju still out for a few more weeks. On another positive note for Buffalo, Ilya Lyubushkin joined the team for the road trip and has a chance to play if not tonight, then tomorrow night against the Lightning, which is huge as adding him back brings a physical presence to the lineup.
Jeff Skinner - Tage Thompson - Kyle Okposo
JJ Peterka - Dylan Cozens - Alex Tuch
Jack Quinn - Casey Mittelstadt - Victor Olofsson
Zemgus Girgensons - Peyton Krebs - Rasmus Asplund
Jacob Bryson - Rasmus Dahlin
Kale Clague - Owen Power
Lawrence Pilut - Casey Fitzgerald
Goaltenders: Craig Anderson (projected starter), Eric Comrie
Scratches: Vinnie Hinostroza, Jeremy Davies
Injuries: Henri Jokiharju, Mattias Samuelsson, Ilya Lyubushkin
Teuvo Teravainen - Sebastian Aho - Seth Jarvis
Andrei Svechnikov - Jesperi Kotkaniemi - Martin Necas
Jordan Martinook - Jordan Staal - Jesper Fast
Stefan Noesen - Paul Stastny - Derek Stepan
Jaccob Slavin - Brent Burns
Brady Skjei - Brett Pesce
Calvin de Haan - Jalen Chatfield
Goaltenders: Antti Raanta (projected starter), Frederik Anderson
Scratches: Dylan Coghlan
Injuries: Ondrej Kase, Max Pacioretty, Jake Gardiner