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Game #77 Preview & Open Thread: Sabres vs. Flyers

Nov 3, 2023; Buffalo, New York, USA; Buffalo Sabres defenseman Rasmus Dahlin (26) tries to block a pass by Philadelphia Flyers right wing Cam Atkinson (89) during the first period at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Can Buffalo continue to make things interesting in the wildcard race?

Buffalo Sabres (36-35-5) vs. Philadelphia Flyers (36-29-11)

Puck Drop: 7:00 PM ET | KeyBank Center | Buffalo, NY

TV: MSG

Radio: WGR-550

Know Your Opponent 

Philadelphia Flyers

Record: 36-29-11

Last Game: 4-3 OT loss to the New York Islanders

Division Ranking: 3rd, Metropolitan

PP: 12.9% (32nd) [Sabres 16.4%, 27th]

PK: 83.7% (4th) [Sabres 79.3%, 17th]

What To Watch For

1. Staying Relevant

The Sabres could have put a few self-enforced nails in their playoff coffins against the Capitals on Tuesday by laying an egg in Jeff Skinner’s 1,000th NHL career game. However, they came out strong and finished the game with a flourish to not only dent the Caps’ hopes but also to keep themselves alive.

The out-of-town results did not quite favor the Sabres last night with the Islanders winning in regulation and the Penguins keeping their hot streak going beating the suddenly hapless Caps. Again, the Sabres only path to the playoffs remains winning all their own games and hoping for favorable results elsewhere.

2. Power Play Could Be The Difference

Enough column inches have been devoted to the Sabres’ futility with the man-advantage, but the Flyers will provide an interesting challenge. They are the worst power play unit in the league – yes, somehow even significantly worse than the Sabres – but find that kind of balanced by having the 4th best penalty kill unit.

Meanwhile, Buffalo are basically mediocre at both special teams facets, but if they could somehow gain an edge through either unit tonight, it could lead to another win. Jordan Greenway is still recovering from his upper-body injury, and coach Don Granato remained cagey about his prospects of playing tonight, saying he remains day-to-day. The burly forward’s presence in the top penalty kill unit has certainly made a difference when he’s been on the ice, and we should expect that to continue.

3. First To Five Goals Wins

The Sabres have played the Flyers twice this season, and both times the road team has potted five goals to win the fixture. Buffalo won 5-2 in Philly in a bizarre game where they scored four times on fourteen shots while the Flyers had two first period goals and nothing else as they poured on 40 shots on Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen in what for me was his coming out game as a NHL-calibre starting goaltender.

Two days later, the Flyers exacted their revenge on the Finn, bagging five goals on 19 shots as it was the Sabres turn to fire blanks in a cagey game at the KBC where the visitors jumped out to a 3-0 lead after the first period and that was all she wrote.

Buffalo has a chance tonight to exorcise their home demons while putting a direct wildcard opponent to the sword, but like has happened too often to count this season, it all depends on how they start the game. Clashes against the Flyers tend to be raucous affairs and Friday nights are made for fighting, or something like that. If the Sabres can come out swinging and bag a couple of early goals, this could turn into a romp, or vice versa, such is life for Buffalo this season.

Projected Lineups

Buffalo Sabres

Forwards 

JJ Peterka – Tage Thompson – Alex Tuch
Zach Benson – Dylan Cozens – Jack Quinn
Jeff Skinner – Peyton Krebs – Lukas Rousek
Eric Robinson – Zemgus Girgensons – Victor Olofsson

Defense

Owen Power – Rasmus Dahlin
Bowen Byram – Henri Jokiharju
Jacob Bryson – Connor Clifton

Goaltenders: Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (projected starter), Eric Comrie

Philadelphia Flyers

Forwards

Tyson Foerster – Morgan Frost – Travis Konecny
Owen Tippett – Scott Laughton – Bobby Brink
Olle Lycksell – Ryan Poehling – Garnet Hathaway
Joel Farabee – Noah Cates – Cam Atkinson

Defense

Cam York – Travis Sanheim
Nick Seeler – Jamie Drysdale
Egor Zamula – Erik Johnson

Goaltenders: Ivan Fedotov, Samuel Ersson