Sabres need to bounce back against Canadiens
After an inauspicious start following the All-Star break, Buffalo needs to find two points against their division rivals
Buffalo Sabres (22-21-7) vs. Montreal Canadiens (22-22-7)
Puck Drop: 7:00 PM EST | KeyBank Center | Buffalo, NY
Radio: WGR 550
SB Nation Canadiens Blog: Habs Eyes on the Prize
Know Your Opponent
Record: 22-22-7 (51 points)
Last 10: 4-5-1
Division Ranking: 6th in the Atlantic Division
Conference Ranking: 12th in the Eastern Conference
PP: 13th (20.1%)
PK: 22nd (78.7%)
What To Watch
1. Last Chance to Salvage Season
The Sabres blew their chance to come out of the All-Star break with a bang on Tuesday, in a 5-2 loss to the lowly Ottawa Senators on home ice. If Buffalo wants to salvage any slim chance at a postseason birth, hey need to get hot in the month of February.
Fan patience is wearing thin (even thinner than before), and as one of just two games on television this past Tuesday, their ire was on display for the rest of the league to see. The organization should be feeling the heat after all but botching the 50th anniversary celebration, while also putting out another mediocre on-ice product. A strong push into March might buy back some good will from a passionate, irate fan base.
2. Hutton’s Cage
It’s no secret that Carter Hutton has struggled mightily in relief of Linus Ullmark this season. Metrically, he ranks in the bottom-third of backups in the NHL, and from a base stats standpoint, his save-percentage of .892 is the lowest of his eight-year career.
Now that Ullmark will be sidelined for 3-4 weeks with a lower-body injury, the Sabres need the veteran netminder to find his game in short order. If he can’t, Jonas Johansson (who was recently called up from the Rochester Amerks) might get his chance to show he has what it takes to backup Ullmark in 2020-21. What that would mean for Hutton remains to be seen, but the pressure is on.
3. Return of the Skinner-Eichel-Reinhart Line?
On Tuesday, Ralph Krueger experimented with Phil Housley’s go-to line from last season, icing his three biggest offensive threats on the same unit. Obviously, the Sabres lack scoring depth, but consolidating all of your offensive talent at the top worked out very poorly for Housley. Buffalo is a better defensive team this year, so perhaps if they can play a really boring brand of defensive hockey, they can get away with only one line producing offense.
Still, with a shaky Hutton between the pipes, that plan seems destined for failure. Zemgus Girgensons skated with Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart at practice yesterday, so we’ll see if that change at all in-game.
Zemgus Girgensons – Jack Eichel – Sam Reinhart
Jeff Skinner – Marcus Johansson – Michael Frolik
Jimmy Vesey – Curtis Lazar – Kyle Okposo
Conor Sheary – Johan Larsson – Evan Rodrigues
Lawrence Pilut – Zach Bogosian
Rasmus Dahlin – Colin Miller
Jake McCabe – Henri Jokiharju
Brandon Montour – Rasmus Ristolainen (maintenance day at practice)
Starting Goaltender: Carter Hutton
Tomas Tatar – Phillip Danault – Ilya Kovalchuk
Max Domi – Nick Suzuki – Joel Armia
Ryan Poehling – Jesperi Kotkaniemi – Artturi Lehkonen
Nick Cousins – Nate Thompson – Dale Weise
Ben Chiarot – Shea Weber
Marco Scandella – Jeff Petry
Victor Mete – Brett Kulak
Starting Goaltender: Carey Price (projected)