The 77th Buffalo Sabres Pregame Skate of the season comes from Detroit, MI, where the Sabres continue their slog through the final games of their league-worst season. Cheer up, Sabres fans. The lottery is less than two weeks away! As has been the case with most of their games of late, the Sabres play another team hungry for some place in the playoffs. Last night, they played a team playing for home ice throughout the playoffs. Tonight, in the Detroit Red Wings, the Sabres face a foe just looking to get a ticket to the dance.
Since the Buffalo Sabres as a team are shot, we’ve been reduced to watching individuals who shine amid the muck; we want to see players who stand out. Once again last night against the St. Louis Blues, it was two of the only three Sabres forwards who seem to have made it out of this season alive. Cody Hodgson connected on a goal assisted by Tyler Ennis. Had Drew Stafford gotten in on that last goal, the team would have seen their three best forwards tally a point. Beyond these three, it really hasn’t been close. Look for the Sabres to once more lean on this small group that has assumed leadership roles of a sort since the team was picked clean of veterans.
The Detroit Red Wings, meanwhile, desperately can’t afford to lose this game. It’s their best and easiest shot at two points in the standings, and if they let this one slip to even an overtime loss, they will be kicking themselves throughout their last six games. They sit only two points ahead of ninth place Toronto with two games at hand. To give up one such game in what should be a layup would be a major setback for the Wings. Fortunately, the team is playing well and appears to be up to task (as is the rest of the NHL) of hosting and defeating the Sabres.
Players to watch:
The Wings will likely lean once more on speedster Gustav Nyquist, who has 23 goals since January 20th. There probably isn’t anyone on Buffalo’s roster who can keep up with this guy at full stride, so that should be at least entertaining to watch, if not a little depressing. Oh hey, did I mention that the lottery is less than two weeks away! Get up!
Luke Adam has once again been recalled by the Sabres. As ever, it will be interesting to see if Adam is able to seize what might be his best opportunity to stand out and provide some offense on a team that’s needed some for about seven years now. He hasn’t looked bad in his limited action in Buffalo, but every coach who’s seen Luke Adam play in Buffalo has passed on his upside, which is telling. I’m rooting for Adam, but I wonder if he isn’t just being showcased as part of a To-Go package that GM Tim Murray is putting together for one of many draft day trade offers. I could be wrong, but Adam just hasn’t been given that much of a chance when you figure he leads Rochester in goals by a wide margin combined and more than half of this roster comes from Rochester’s Opening Day roster anyways. It’s not like Adam isn’t bringing more to this team than John Scott.
Why you should watch:
Again, there’s the individual spiel. I’ve really enjoyed watching Tyler Ennis excel as an offensive leader on this team. I know that’s not much when you’re the worst scoring team in the modern era, but he and Drew Stafford really do work well together and that at least makes me believe Stafford is a good keep for the last year of his contract. Ennis is a no brainer because he’s young and cheap and probably the best offensive player on the team. The Sabres need to start keeping guys and building around them.
Stafford, on the other hand, was a foregone conclusion as a goner. There is no way fans could ever envision the team re-signing Stafford beyond his current contract for anything but the league minimum. Now? If he could give it another season like this one — hard effort with a 20 goal pace on a better team — he might be worth a modest offer before he hits the open market in 2015. It’s little solace, but who knew we’d ever come out of this season liking Drew Stafford more than we did when we started? I’m interested enough in these guys to see how they perform, regardless of the score, while also rooting for the Sabres to spoil the playoff hopes of a new division foe.