Thursday, October 26, 2017

Sabres in Columbus on NBCSN tonight

Published by, 10-25-2017

The Buffalo Sabres jumped on a plane right after their 1-0 victory over the Detroit Red Wings at KeyBank Center last night and headed to Buckeye Country for a game tonight against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Last night’s win wasn’t without flaws, as they caught the Wings on a four-game winless streak (0-3-1,) but Buffalo had to gut this one out with a desperate Detroit team. The Wings came out strong on the heels of a tongue-lashing by head coach Jeff Blashill who called them out after a 4-1 loss to the Vancouver Canucks on home ice Sunday. “Brutal effort,” Blashill said to the gathered media as he began his press conference after the 'Nucks game. “I thought it was an embarrassing effort. Not even close to the level of competitiveness that you have to have. We should be embarrassed of ourselves. For me at the top all the way on down. We got outcompeted, outworked, out-detailed.” 
That wasn't about to happen last night at Buffalo as Blashill's Wings played a strong game with only one blemish on the night. Buffalo's Benoit Pouliot scored the only goal of the game as jumped on a loose puck behind the net then raced around to stuff it past Wings goalie Jimmy Howard. Unfortunately for the Wings, none of their 32 shots on goal got past Buffalo netminder Robin Lehner. Howard also faced 32 shots and lost for the first time ever in his career against the Sabres. He came into the game with an 8-0-1 record and a 1.46 GAA in 10 games vs. Buffalo.
As for the Sabres, they're continuing to improve, especially on the back end where the duo of Rasmus Ristolainen (29:55 TOI) and Marco Scandella (27:30) anchored a progressing defense-corps. That time on ice also included both playing the final 2:33 with Buffalo up by one goal. The whole team played really sound defense as Buffalo continues to simplify their game. "I think we played a good game," said Lehner to the gathered media afterward, "I think we played the right way. We followed the game plan."
Lehner did point out that through the first ten minutes of the game the Sabres reverted back to their early-season form, "forcing pucks up the middle [with the Wings] turning it back around." He also used last Saturday's come from behind win at Boston as an example of what this team can do when they play the right way. "The game in Boston wasn't like a wake-up call," he said, "but I think it really showed [that] when we play our game, we're successful and when we force pucks, teams are good and they're going to make you pay."
The Sabres are still learning as a team, still getting comfortable with linemates and d-partners, still trying to find their niche in coach Phil Housley's system. Housley himself is still getting acclimated to his new surroundings as first-time head coach and although the team has won two in a row, you are what your record says you are and right now Buffalo's 3-5-2 record says they’re in the bottom-half of the league. However, their 3-1-1 record over their last five games says that their a team that’s beginning to make a push to get out of the lower portion of the league.
Regardless of consecutive losses at the beginning of their four-game home stand, the Blue Jackets are still a dangerous team and tonight represents a "big" game, according to Columbus forward Matt Calvert. "We've lost two in a row on our home ice, and our fans have been great for us, cheering loud for us, "said Calvert to the local media. "It's something we really prided ourselves on last year, something we worked on throughout the year, and we became a hard team to play at home."
Last year the Blue Jackets finished third in a tough Metropolitan Division with 108 points and went 28-12-1 at home. This year, however, Columbus is an even 2-2-0 at Nationwide Arena.
Buffalo will need to be prepared for an early onslaught from the Blue Jackets, and with all due respect to the Wings, some of the early mistakes the Sabres made against Detroit may end up in the back of their net against Columbus. The Jackets boasted 12 double-digit goal scorers last season which placed them fifth in the conference for goals-scored and although they lost their No. 3 goal scorer from last year in Brandon Saad, 21 yr. old rookie Sonny Milano looks to be heir apparent as he leads the team in goals with five on the season.
Without a morning skate, one would think that Housley sticks with the lineup he had in last night's win, barring an return by forward Zemgus Girgensons or defenseman Justin Falk. Both skated with the team yesterday, but did not play, and both are listed as day-to-day. Here's what Housley rolled with last night:
With Lehner playing last night, it wouldn't be surprising to see backup Chad Johnson in net for Buffalo.
Game-time is 8:00 pm as tonight's Buffalo/Columbus matchup is on NBCSN marking not only one of 16 scheduled back-to-back games for the Sabres, but also a back-to-back on national TV.

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