Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com
The Dallas Stars are hot right now having won four in a row and eight of their last 10. Overall Dallas is off to a 16-4-0 start, best in franchise history. The Stars are leading the league in scoring at 3.55 goals/game, they have the league's second highest scorer in Tyler Seguin (28 pts.) and it's third in defending scoring champ, Jamie Benn (27 pts.) plus they have 23 yr. old John Klingberg who's sixth in scoring while leading all defenseman with 22 points.
Dallas has good size, a great mix of vets and youth, and is coached by Lindy Ruff an 18 yr. veteran behind the bench who has won 669 regular season games. Ruff's Dallas team has size and skill and likes to dictate the pace with speed. And if they get the lead on you, look out. Dallas is 9-1-0 when leading after one period, 8-0-0 when leading after two.
If the Sabres want to beat the league's best team tonight at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, it would behoove them get on the scoreboard first. In their last 10 games they're 4-0-0 when scoring first, 1-3-2 when they fall behind.
The Sabres are no slouches when playing with the lead either. They're 4-1-0 on the year when leading after one period, 6-0-0 when leading after two. And in a bit of a twist from early predictions, the Sabres have been carried by their goaltending and defense. With all the firepower acquired in the off season, Buffalo ranks 27th in the league in scoring at 2.21 goals/game. Their goalie tandem of back-up Chad Johnson, who will get the start tonight, and rookie Linus Ullmark have helped lead the team to 18th overall in goals-against average (2.68.)
The Sabres are getting shots to the net, but they're having trouble lighting the lamp, and even the powerplay, which is ranked 4th in the league sputtered mightily during the last game at St. Louis as they went 0-4 including a goose-egg on two 5-on-3's. They also faltered on the penalty kill allowing two goals on three chances. Add it up, and with better special teams play, the Sabres may have gotten out of St. Louis with two points instead of the one they got via the shootout.
This isn't an indictment on the team as it's best to keep things in perspective. Despite being near the quarter-pole on the season, this young Sabres squad (2nd youngest in the league) is still learning about each other and still acclimating their play to head coach Dan Bylsma's system. They'd been without their No.2 defenseman, Zach Bogosian, until the Dallas game on Tuesday and they lost Evander Kane for 10 games while he nursed a lower-body injury. Kane came back for Thursday's game at St. Louis and was a plus-1 in 20:55 all-purpose minutes.
The Sabres are in the midst of a tough stretch where they're facing some of the best teams in the western conference. Beginning with Tuesday's home match-up against Dallas, come Saturday November 28th, they'll have faced the Stars twice, the Blues twice and the Nashville Predators twice with Carolina thrown in for good measure. Those three western conference teams are a combined 40-14-4 at this juncture of the season and presently sit one, two and three, respectively, in the conference. (Carolina is dead-last in the east and tied for last in the league with Edmonton.)
Like the Buffalo Bills playing the New England Patriots this Monday night, if the Sabres want to be the best, they'll need to beat the best and they'll have four opportunities in the next week to see just how they measure up.
Today was an optional pre-game skate that was run by assistant coach Dave Barr, according to WGR's Paul Hamilton. He went on to tweet that all the players were on the ice.
Game-time is 8:30.