Preview: Sabres at Red Wings
The red-hot start to the season is a distant memory for the Buffalo Sabres, who are just trying to remain within striking distance in the Eastern Conference playoff race as they visit the NHL-worst Detroit Red Wings on Sunday. Buffalo started the season with points in nine of 10 games (8-1-1) and enjoyed another promising 6-2-4 stretch, but has lost nine of the last 12 contests after Saturday’s 6-3 loss to Vancouver at home.
"It was a hell of a hockey game until 14 minutes to go, and we turned it into a very painful, unacceptable finish,” Sabres coach Ralph Krueger told reporters after his team surrendered the final three goals Saturday. The Sabres allowed 11 goals in the past two games and hope to gain some momentum by continuing their success in the series as they have gained at least a point in five consecutive games (4-0-1) against the Red Wings, who can match the longest winning streak of the season Sunday. Detroit, which won three straight in early November, edged Montreal 4-3 on Tuesday before outlasting Ottawa 3-2 in a shootout Friday for its third straight victory on home ice. “We’ve talked so much about needing something to grab on to, and I really believe we can be a great team at home,” Red Wings center Dylan Larkin told reporters. “We’ve seen it, and with our schedule coming up before the long All-Star break, we really can get on a roll here and keep it going into the end of the season.”
TIME: 5 p.m. ET. TV: MSG Buffalo, FS Detroit
ABOUT THE SABRES (19-19-7): Captain Jack Eichel set up a pair of tallies Saturday to extend his point streak to six games (three goals, four assists) and push his team-leading total to 58 points - 22 more than anyone else on the roster. Sam Reinhart notched his 15th goal of the season in the loss and has three during a four-game point streak while defenseman Rasmus Dahlin posted four of his 23 assists in the past three contests. Carter Hutton made 29 saves in his first appearance since Dec. 19 and Linus Ullmark (13-12-3, .910 save percentage) is expected back in net to try and match his 41-save shutout of Detroit on Oct. 25.
ABOUT THE RED WINGS (12-30-2): Larkin, who had the shootout winner Friday after scoring in regulation, is riding a five-game point streak to push his season total to 29 - second only behind All Star Game-bound forward Tyler Bertuzzi (34). Defenseman Filip Hronek continues to impress as the team’s third-leading scorer with 25 points, including six in his last seven outings. “For a little guy, he plays hard,” Bertuzzi told the Detroit Free Press of Hronek, a 22-year-old former second-round pick, who is listed at 6 feet, 163 pounds. “He hits. He blocks shots and does all the little things right and he gets rewarded. He’s playing confidently and he’s been unreal for us.”
1. Detroit C Frans Nielsen, who has 299 career assists, reportedly missed practice because of illness.
2. Buffalo RW Kyle Okposo snapped an eight-game point drought with an assist Saturday.
3. Red Wings G Jonathan Bernier is 3-1-0 in his past four starts and owns a .937 SP in his last six appearances.
PREDICTION: Sabres 4, Red Wings 3