3 burning questions for the Buffalo Sabres in Week 16 of 2023-24

The Buffalo Sabres are gearing up for a Western Conference road trip, and once again, they have a chance to end the week over 0.500.

Jan 20, 2024; Buffalo, New York, USA;  Buffalo Sabres defenseman Ryan Johnson (33) skates with the
Jan 20, 2024; Buffalo, New York, USA; Buffalo Sabres defenseman Ryan Johnson (33) skates with the / Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
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The Buffalo Sabres are in California this week, and much like in Week 15, the Blue and Gold have a pair of ultra-favorable matchups against the Anaheim Ducks tonight and the San Jose Sharks come Saturday afternoon. They also face the Los Angeles Kings in the second half of a back-to-back, but with LA playing a rather turbulent game lately, it’s yet another matchup that the Blue and Gold could have an advantage. 

By facing a trio of mediocre teams - mediocre for the time being in the Kings case - the Sabres have more than a legitimate chance to ease back over 0.500 this week, but they must win all three games. Two of the three teams (Anaheim and San Jose) are among the league’s worst in scoring, so another shutout is possible, and that is where we will begin the burning questions for the week.

Burning questions for the Buffalo Sabres in Week 16

1 - Will the Sabres record yet another shutout?

You can’t help but like the Sabres chances here, as they are playing an Anaheim Ducks team tonight that ranks 29th in scoring. The Sharks, through 47 games, have yet to reach 100 goals on the year. Only the Kings have a respectable track record in scoring, so if Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen keeps bringing his A-game, yet another shutout is more than possible.

However, the Sabres must continue to play strong defensively and avoid making costly turnovers in their own zone. We know goaltending and defense may not be an issue, but offensively, they need to get it together for this road trip. 

2 - Will the Sabres finally end a month with a winning record?

Sitting at 20-22-4, the Sabres have an opportunity to at least end the month at 0.500 as they should have few issues beating Anaheim and San Jose. The Ducks have lost three in a row, and have been outscored 12-5 in that span. 

While San Jose snagged back-to-back wins and could be embarking on a small hot streak, their shutout loss to Buffalo is still fresh in their minds. Only the Kings (53 points) could give the Sabres trouble, but they have won just two of their last 10 and are coming off of an overtime loss to the Sharks. 

Therefore, there is a chance the Blue and Gold take advantage and sit at 0.500 leading into the All-Star Break. Further, that would mean finishing January either at 8-3-0 or 7-3-1, perhaps setting the stage for a thrilling final two-and-a-half months. 

3 - Will Casey Mittelstadt or Rasmus Dahlin inch closer to career-highs in goals?

Casey Mittelstadt and Rasmus Dahlin both have a goal apiece plus four and five points, respectively in their last five games. These numbers indicate the duo, especially against a pair of weak teams, shouldn’t just get closer, but Dahlin can tie his career-high of 15 goals if he scores two more in the coming days. 

If Mittelstadt and Dahlin want to keep pacing the Buffalo Sabres in points and get closer to their respective career-bests in finding the net, this is the week to make something happen. They have both been taking more shots on goal lately, with Mittelstadt taking 11 in his last five and Dahlin, 13, so recent numbers indicate they will be firing pucks at the net. 

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(Statistics provided by Hockey-Reference)