Published by hockeybuzz.com, 10-12-2017
Do you know the way to San Jose'?
Sure. And as the Buffalo Sabres get ready to hit the Shark Tank, aka the SAP Center in San Jose, California, the game against the Sharks couldn't have come at a better time. It does seem a little strange writing that. This Sabres team is reeling from back-to-back blow-out losses, but despite that, recent games against the Sharks, who are just over a year removed from a Stanley Cup Final appearance, have almost invariably turned in Buffalo's favor.
According to Sabres PR the Sabres are 8-1-1 in their last 10 meetings vs. the Sharks which includes back-to-back season sweeps when the team was in the tank from 2013-15, and overall Buffalo has a 27-7-6 record against San Jose'. Things are a bit different at the Shark Tank as the Sabres are only 6-3-1 in their last 10 visits to northern California.
The Sharks finished outside of the playoffs last season, the first time that's happened post '04-05 lockout, and they're off to an 0-2 start this season. San Jose' suffered both of their losses on home ice to Philadelphia (5-3) and to So. Cal rival Los Angeles (3-1.) Although there's no panic in the Bay area yet there's some concern and players like alternate captain Logan Couture told the local press that "there should be some sense of urgency" and that "we need to be better."
Sounds eerily familiar to what we've been hearing from Sabres' players after they stunk up the joint on Columbus Day. It was Buffalo's second loss in regulation, the second game in a row they gave up six goals and it was the third time in a row that they allowed a momentum changing shorthanded goal.
The Sabres were extremely sloppy in both those losses to the NY Islanders (6-3) and the New Jersey Devils (6-2) with Evander Kane summing it up like this, "we have a big trip out west we need to be ready for because if we play like that, [the score's] going to be 10-0."
In an effort to play an up-tempo game and manufacture shots, the Sabres are forgetting the defensive zone and are getting caught cheating up ice. While in the offensive zone the effort isn't there to win battles, especially on the powerplay. And when they the momentum shifts, they're swallowed up in the tsunami.
Buffalo coach Phil Housley mixed things up a bit in the forward group and according to media reports from San Jose, the lines from yesterday's practice are intact save for one surprise. Multiple tweets report that Kyle Okposo is not out there for the morning skate and is being replaced in the lineup by Matt Moulson.
Here are the lines as reported:
Goalie Robin Lehner took a shot to the face mask off the stick of Zemgus Girgensons at practice yesterday. He got stitched up and was back on the ice. Chad Johnson got the start against New Jersey on Monday and didn't fare well so it's safe to assume that Lehner will be back in net against the Sharks.
Tonight begins a four-game West Coast road trip for the Sabres. After this they head south to take on Los Angeles Saturday and Anaheim on Sunday before they arrive in Las Vegas for their first-ever game against the expansion Golden Knights.
Game-time against the Sharks tonight is 10:30 pm EST.