While they were able to get a point on Sunday, the Buffalo Sabres failed to continue their winning streak that saw them climb, at least momentarily a little higher in the Eastern Conference Standings and put a little space between them and the bottom.
Getting back on the horse after a shootout loss to the New York Rangers is going to be difficult, especially when playing the Southeast Division leading Carolina Hurricanes. The Hurricanes are one of the hottest teams in the National Hockey Leage, putting up an average of 3.0 goals a game.
In two games this year against the Buffalo Sabres, the ‘Canes have outscored the Sabres 9-4 in back to back games in January. With a win tonight, the Hurricanes could sweep the season series against the Sabres.
Any future success for the Carolina Hurricanes is going to have to come in front of their backup goaltender. Cam Ward injured his knee against the Florida Panthers – and will miss six to eight weeks in recovery. They are hopeful he will not need surgery.
For the Blue and Gold, the Buffalo Sabres are hoping to have sniper Thomas Vanek back in the lineup. They Sabres need the Thomas Vanek of the first portion of the season, the one that was finding the net with ease. Once a top of the league in several offensive categories – he is now nine points behind the league lead in points, and ranks sixth in goals.
The Sabres need to play smart hockey against the Hurricanes. While their meager power play has been non existent, the Hurricanes have killed off 23 of their opponents last 24 power plays.
Buffalo currently sits 12 in the conference standings, and with a victory tonight, could pull within one place of the eighth spot.
OUT OF TOWN SCOREBOARD WATCH
Tampa Bay Lightning vs New Jersey Devils – Tampa sits just one point below the Buffalo Sabres and the New Jersey Devils are just five points ahead of Buffalo – a difficult spot for a Sabres fan to pick and choose a winner. New Jersey has a game in hand on the Buffalo Sabres – so if the boys can pull a win out against Carolina, hope for Bolts win here, it will keep the Lightning behind you, but will keep the Devils close.
Montreal Canadiens vs New York Islanders – Lets go Red, White and Blue! Sitting atop the Northeast Division and the top spot in the East – you want the Montreal Canadiens to steam roll the Islanders in regulation.
Boston Bruins vs Washington Capitals – I never like saying this, it always feels like I need a shower afterwards, but go Bruins in this matchup. There is little hope to catch the Bruins who sit just on the heels of the Canadiens. Keep Washington as far in the basement as possible.
Philadelphia Flyers vs New York Rangers – the toughest game of the night for the Buffalo Sabres to deal with the outcome of is this game. Philadelphia is three points ahead of the Buffalo Sabres and in the final playoff spot. The New York Rangers sit just two points ahead of the Sabres in ninth place. A Flyers win moves the Sabres closer to the Rags, but keeps them at the same arms length as the Sabres. It pains my soul to say this, but I will be rooting for the Flyers to keep the point spread close between the Sabres and the playoff teams. This game has to end in regulation either way.
Off course all of this hinges on Buffalo getting two points.