Buffalo Sabres Week Ahead 11/30-12/6: This feels different
The Sabres get an easy schedule coming out of the Thanksgiving holiday, and two games that should bring back fond (or not so fond) memories from last year.
Last week was a busy one for the Buffalo Sabres, with four games in six nights against some staunch opponents (and Carolina). With two wins and two losses, the Sabres moved to 10-12-2, and currently sit five points out of the playoffs. Barring a big winning streak sometime soon, the Sabres look like they'll be chasing the eighth seed for much of the year, but it was encouraging to see the team come together and win on back to back nights by a 4-1 score in each game.
Here's what's on tap for the week ahead:
Tuesday, Dec. 1, 7:30pm - Sabres at Red Wings
The first meeting of the year between these two division opponents could have a big impact on the standings, if you're following closely, as Detroit occupies the seventh seed in the East. The Red Wings are still playing well in their first year under new coach Jeff Blashill, but they are the rare team in a playoff position that also has a negative goal differential of -4. In fact, many of their numbers indicate that this is a beatable team - they give up three more shots than they take, and they're in the bottom five in the NHL in both power play percentage and faceoff win percentage.
This game will also see Jack Eichel face off against Dylan Larkin, who leads all rookies with 10 goals this season. Eichel's eight are good for second, but Jack obviously wins on quality.
Friday, Dec. 4, 7:00pm - Coyotes vs. Sabres
Oh boy. In a game that matters so, so much less than it did last season, the Arizona Coyotes come to town for the only time this season. If you haven't been paying attention to the Coyotes (just like their fans HEYOOOOOO) it turns out they're actually playing quite well this year, sporting a 13-9-1 record (oh) and sitting in the seventh playoff spot in the West.
Much of that is due to their significant contributions from rookies Max Domi and Anthony Duclair, who have eight goals each and are both top five in rookie scoring, as well as steady efforts from their veterans like Shane Doan (six goals) and Oliver Ekman-Larsson (15 points). The Coyotes are hot right now, going 7-3 in their last ten games, so the Sabres will need a strong effort to avoid losing to the Coyotes not on purpose this time.
Sunday, Dec. 6, 8:00pm - Sabres at Oilers
It's the showdown of two generational players, #1 vs #2, America against Canada, a rivalry for the ages that all starts tonight! Or at least it would be, if Connor McDavid didn't break his collarbone earlier this season. Still, the Sabres vs. Oilers matchup will be one that the rest of the hockey world should follow for the next few years. Not just because of Eichel and McDavid, but also as an example of two different ways to rebuild a team.
The Oilers have used time and luck to get top pick after top pick, stockpiling their cupboards with crazy good young talent while failing to bring in the right pieces to put around them. The Sabres, on the other hand, used more of a scorched earth game plan to burn the organization to the ground before swinging major trades to build it back up in a hurry. Regardless of the outcome of tonight's McDavid-less game, the journey of these two teams will be intertwined in various ways for years to come.
That's the schedule for this week, Sabres fans. Let us know what you think in the comments.