The Buffalo Sabres have one more task ahead of them before the year of 2013 comes to an end: a visit to the Winnipeg Jets this evening, where, by the way, the wind chill was a lovely -40 degrees Fahrenheit as of about 9:30 a.m.
Can the Buffalo Sabres freeze the Winnipeg Jets out of two points in this evening’s meeting, the second and final between the teams this season? Can the Sabres win a game in Winnipeg for the first time since February 10, 1993? Can the team improve to 4-12-2 on the road this season?
Heading into tonight’s game, the Sabres have earned points in three consecutive games and have earned at least a point in seven of the last nine games. The team has had no problem winning on home ice – in fact they’re on a four-game streak in that department – but tonight’s road trip to Winnipeg and the following game in Minnesota will be a test of sorts for the streaking team, especially since the Sabres are 3-12-2 on the road this season.
The Jets, meanwhile, look to extend their own two-game winning streak. Overall, they’re 18-18-5 this season, including a 9-8-4 record on home ice.
One challenge the Buffalo Sabres will face heading into tonight’s game will be scoring. Winnipeg has scored an average of 2.58 goals per game, whereas Buffalo’s statistic in that category is just 1.69. Shots are another factor – Winnipeg’s taken an average of 31.5 shots per game and allowed 30.7, whereas Buffalo is at 26.5 for and 34.8 against.
Jhonas Enroth is expected to start in net tonight for the Buffalo Sabres. Enroth is 1-7-3 this season with a 2.65 GAA and .909 save percentage. His matchup on the Jets’ side is unknown, but it could be Ondrej Pavelec, who is 11-16-4 this season with a 3.03 GAA and .902 save percentage. The other option would be Al Montoya, who is 7-2-1 with a 2.02 GAA and .929 save percentage.
Right wing Bryan Little leads the Jets with 33 points, while Blake Wheeler (15) and Dustin Byfuglien (22) lead in goals and assists, respectively. Byfuglien also leads the team in penalty minutes, with 42 on the season. Little, Wheeler and Byfuglien will all be players to watch on the power play, as the three combined have tallied 12 power play goals this season. Former Chicago Blackhawks forward Andrew Ladd also has a pair of power play goals.
Cody Hodgson leads the Buffalo Sabres in points, but he’s out for tonight’s game. Look to Matt Moulson, Tyler Ennis, Christian Ehrhoff and Zemgus Girgensons on the scoresheet heading into tonight’s meeting with Winnipeg. Moulson is second on the team in points, while Hodgson and Ennis lead the team in goals (8). Ehrhoff (12) leads the team in assists, while Girgensons is tied as one of the top four point-getters on the team.
Marcus Foligno leads the team with 55 penalty minutes.
Both teams are facing a host of injuries that will factor into tonight’s game.
For the Buffalo Sabres, left winger Ville Leino is questionable for this evening’s meeting with Winnipeg. Leino was injured on a hit delivered by Tom Wilson during Sunday’s game against the Washington Capitals. Center Cody Hodgson is out with a thumb/wrist injury, while Kevin Porter and Cody McCormick are both on injured reserve.
For the Winnipeg Jets, four players are currently on injured reserve. Paul Postma is out with a blood clot in his leg, Matt Halischuk has a fractured forearm, and Jim Slater had sports hernia surgery. Defenseman Grant Clitsome is also on IR with an undisclosed injury.
The previous meeting between the teams came exactly two weeks ago, when the Sabres scored four unanswered goals to nab an eventual 4-2 victory on home ice. That game saw Mark Scheifele score a pair of goals in 36 seconds for Winnipeg before the Sabres were able to rally back.
Buffalo goals came from Steve Ott, Marcus Foligno, Matt Moulson and Matt Ellis, and 12 different Sabres players had at least a point in the win. Ryan Miller had 25 saves, while Ondrej Pavelec had 27 on his end.
Both the Buffalo Sabres and the Winnipeg Jets are coming off 2-1 victories on Sunday heading into tonight’s game, which begins at 7 p.m.