It's been said hundreds of times since 2007--the Buffalo Sabres look as if they want to put on a show when playing the home crowd. Which is all well and good. Unfortunately, it seems as if they forget how to play winning hockey while inserting (or trying to insert) some flare to their home games and more often than not as of late, they've laid an egg.
Buffalo hasn't had a winning record at home since 2011-12 when they went 21-12-8 under head coach Lindy Ruff. Since then the Sabres have a gone a combined 81-103-31. This season Buffalo is 8-16-4 at home, which is poor in and of itself, but what's more troublesome is their abysmal play in two of three matinees on home ice, which happened to be during a the team's 'Kids Day' promotion.
The Sabres scheduled six Kids Days throughout the season with the matinee's featuring reduced prices for kids (with the purchase of a full price ticket,) giveaways and other events in an effort to get Buffalo's future fan base excited about the Blue and Gold. However, as the saying goes, "the best laid plans of mice and men, often go awry."
Buffalo has played three games on Kids Day so far this season and they're 0-3-0, which is not anything to get excited about. But when you look at the collective score of 17-5 in those losses, within a disappointing season no-less, it doesn't lay a very good foundation for the fan base of the future.
Kids Day should be like a fun-filled G-rated movie with popcorn and ice cream, some action on the ice with a few hard-edged surprises thrown in for good measure. But in two instances, the horror on display was enough to bring on nightmares.
Back in October the high-flying New Jersey Devils came to town and just annihilated the Sabres 6-2 on the season's first Kids Day. After the Devils scored two goals in the first period of that game, the Sabres answered early in the second with a goal to make it 2-1. Then the bottom fell out as New Jersey scored the next four.
Fast forward to the new calendar year and the Sabres would play even worse in January when the Dallas Stars came to town. Dallas scored the first three goals before allowing Buffalo to score about mid-way through the second period. The Stars responded with four unanswered leaving an indelible 7-1 imprint on the thousands of kids who came in rooting for the home team, but left as boos rained down on the Sabres. In between the New Jersey and Dallas games there were other clunkers, and often times we thought (or hoped) that they'd hit bottom, but nothing could have prepared Sabreland for the utter disaster that was the Dallas game.
That said, it looks as if the Stars game was finally a bottoming out. Buffalo has played very well since then going 6-4-2 in that span which includes a season-long three-game win-streak in western Canada that included back-to-back shutouts. They also had a string of four games in a row where they scored four or more goals (3-0-1,) something they'd been unable to accomplish since the latter months of 2015.
The Sabres last game was in Ottawa on Thursday, and they almost came away with a win. Despite being outplayed by the Senators for much of the game, Buffalo was ahead 2-1 in the late stages of the third period before Ottawa scored with :31 seconds to go. The Sens took advantage of an awkward Sabres change in overtime and won 3-2 while handing Buffalo their 10 overtime loss of the season against only three wins.
Buffalo takes on the Los Aneles Kings today at KeyBank Center, which might be good for the Sabres and the thousands of kids expected to be in attendance. Buffalo is on an eight-game winning streak against the Kings, according to the Sabres, and that includes two wins during their 2013-15 tank seasons.
Sabres.com also noted that Buffalo is 14-1-1 (one tie) in their last 16 home games dating back to 1993 and have outscored the Kings 67-25 and that the Kings have not won at Buffalo since February 21, 2003.
Sabres head coach Phil Housley had been alternating Buffalo's two goalies over the last five games even without a back-to-back and the Sabres are 3-1-1 during that stretch. But, according to reports from the rink, it looks as if starter Robin Lehner will get the call today. Lehner is 3-3-2 since the Dallas game and was in goal for Buffalo against Ottawa and stopping 33 of 36 shots against (.917 Sv%) in the overtime loss.
Also reported is that Justin Falk and Jordan Nolan will be back in the lineup against a rugged Kings team that likes to play a heavy game. Nolan was drafted by the Kings in 2009 (186th-overall) and won two Stanley Cups with LA before they waived him in September and Buffalo claimed him.
The projected lineup this afternoon based upon yesterday's practice:
--Evander Kane gets moved to the top line with Ryan O'Reilly and Sam Reinhart.
--The bottom-six of the lineup has contributed five goals since Jack Eichel went down with an injury in Boston four games ago. Scott Wilson leads the charge with three, Nic Baptiste has another and Benoit Pouliot, who's been moved up and down on the wing has the other. They've also added four assists. Buffalo is 2-1-1 in those four games.
The Rochester Americans broke out of a very rough patch by laying down a 12-3 beating on the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins last night at Blue Cross Arena.
It was the most goals scored in an AHL game since December 8, 2002 when the Hamilton Bulldogs defeated the Cleveland Barrons 15-1.
Let'sGoAmerks.com laid out a number of AHL season highs with that 12-goal outburst:
- Goals in a game: 12 (previous was 10 set by the Amerks on November 24, 2017)
- Highest winning margin: 9
- Assists in a game: 22
- Points in a game: 34
- Power play goals in a game: 6
- Goals in the 3rd: 5 (tied with three other teams)
From the box score, three players had two goals each last night--Seth Griffith, Kyle Criscuolo, and Alexander Nylander. Leading the charge in assists and points was Griffith with three while Criscuolo, Nylander, Hudson Fasching, Taylor Fedun, Brendan Guhle and Justin Bailey all had two assists each.
Griffith lead the team with five points while Criscuolo and Nylander had four each.
Linus Ullmark was in net allowing three goals on 38 shots. He did not allow a goal until the Amerks were up 5-0 just over half way through the game.