Sabres Host Canes in Penultimate Home Game
The Sabres host the Hurricanes in their penultimate home game of the season on Saturday afternoon.
Buffalo Sabres (38-32-7) vs. Carolina Hurricanes (50-19-9)
Puck Drop: 12:30 PM EST | KeyBank Center | Buffalo, NY
Radio: WGR 550
Know Your Opponent
Last Game: 3-0 loss to Nashville
Division Ranking: 1st in Metropolitan Division
PP: 20.3 (19th)
PK: 83.9% (2nd)
What to Watch
1. Need Another Win
It feels repetitive to keep saying that this is another big game, and that the Sabres need to win today - but it's true. Saturday is a packed day in the NHL, with every team in action. This afternoon's game won't be a cakewalk by any stretch, as the Hurricanes are top of their division and, per MoneyPuck.com, have a 60.5 percent chance of winning today's game.
The Sabres need to come out strong in this one from the get-go. Score first, don't get behind. Play a full 60 minutes, and all of those other typical hockey cliches. One point of note: although the Sabres' power play is among the best in the NHL, it may not mean a whole lot today as they face the Canes, who have the second-best penalty kill in the league.
2. Use Lethal Offense
The Sabres have a really strong offensive core this season, and they need to keep using it to their advantage. Tage Thompson is just eight points from 100 on the season. Alex Tuch and Jeff Skinner each have 73 points, while Rasmus Dahlin sits at 69. Dylan Cozens and Casey Mittelstadt are next in line, both over 50 points.
The Hurricanes, meanwhile, are led by Martin Necas with 69 points, and Sebastian Aho, who has 34 goals and 64 points. Only two other players, one of whom is on injured reserve, have broken the 50-point mark. Carolina's offense is not as lethal as Buffalo's - the Sabres have scored 276 goals this season, to Carolina's 247. Where Buffalo may have other weak spots, the team needs to keep using its offense to find those little boosts.
But, while we're on the topic of scoring, we can't ignore the importance of defense. With Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen expected to get the start Saturday, the Sabres need to play stronger in front of him. UPL regularly lets in more goals and that often results in Buffalo needing to score more in order to have a chance at a win. With only a handful of games left in the regular season, and each a must-win, it needs to be a complete effort from every facet of the team.
3. In Other News...
In other news, the Rochester Americans clinched a playoff spot on Friday night. Second place in their division is still up for grabs. The Amerks beat the Syracuse Crunch in overtime 3-2 thanks to a game-winning goal from Jiri Kulich. That, combined with a Laval loss in regulation, gave the Amerks the clinch.
And of course, if you haven't heard by now, Devon Levi became the first goalie to win the Mike Richter Award in consecutive seasons. He was named the best goaltender in NCAA Division I men's college hockey on Friday night, one day ahead of the Frozen Four championship. Adam Fantilli, who is draft eligible this year, won the Hobey Baker.
Jeff Skinner - Casey Mittelstadt - Alex Tuch
Jordan Greenway - Dylan Cozens - Tage Thompson
JJ Peterka - Tyson Jost - Jack Quinn
Zemgus Girgensons - Peyton Krebs - Kyle Okposo
Rasmus Dahlin - Mattias Samuelsson
Owen Power - Henri Jokiharju
Riley Stillman - Ilya Lyubushkin
Goaltenders: Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (projected starter), Devon Levi, Eric Comrie
Scratches: Vinnie Hinostroza, Kale Clague, Jacob Bryson, Craig Anderson
Teuvo Teravainen - Sebastian Aho - Martin Necas
Stefan Noesen - Jesperi Kotkaniemi - Jesse Puljujarvi
Jordan Martinook - Jordan Staal - Jesper Fast
Jack Drury - Derek Stepan - Seth Jarvis
Jaccob Slavin - Brent Burns
Brady Skjei - Brett Pesce
Shayne Gostisbehere - Jalen Chatfield
Goaltenders: Antti Raanta, Frederik Andersen
Injuries: Jake Gardiner, Ondrej Kase, Max Pacioretty, Andrei Svechnikov