Buffalo Sabres: The Week Ahead

It’s weird, a team can feel like it’s making huge strides yet not moving forward at all.

The Sabres seem to be a much better team of late, going 5-3-2 over their last ten, yet they still sit a full nine points back of second-to-last New York (Islanders) and five points ahead of Edmonton for worst in the league.

Even more astounding? The Sabres are 5-1 in overtime and shootouts. Because of course they are. Still, it seems no matter how well they play, there is no climbing out of the cellar. Not even with their next three being against the worst division in hockey (Metropolitan Division) and the team that couldn’t put butts in the seats if they promised free money and hand-in-hand skates with the players.

Here’s the week ahead.

(Photo: Andy Martin Jr)

(Photo: Andy Martin Jr)

1/7 vs Carolina

Don’t look now, but the Sabres are suddenly hot as can be at home. They started the season 0-8-1 at the First Niagra Center, but now are in pursuit of their sixth consecutive win in the friendly confines.

Turns out, though, that the Canes are just as hot. They’ve won four in a row with a big hand going to Jeff Skiller. Skinner was the NHL’s first star of the week last week with six goals and nine points over his last four games. He leads the team with 20, a double-digit deficit between him and second-place Eric Staal (20-10).

Of course, the Canes can’t stay healthy to save their lives. Joni Pitkanen is done for the year, but now Jiri Tlusty and Riley Nash join him on the injured reserve with Staal missing due to the dreaded lower-body injury.

Still, between Skinner, the suddenly-hot Alex Semin and Cam Ward, the Canes have a fighting chance each night.

1/9 vs Florida

The last time these two met, Jhonas Enroth was outstanding as the Sabres took the 3-1 win. This time, it’s a clear battle for the basement in the Atlantic Division with the Sabres owning a game in hand and trailing the Cats by 10 points in the standings.

The Panthers had gotten a little hot a few weeks back but have cooled off once again, treading water at 5-4-1 over their last 10. Whereas the Sabres allow fewer goals (mostly because of Ryan Miller, but who’s asking?), the Panthers allow the third-most in the conference and fourth-most in the league. They can be scored on.

This will also serve as a warning to the Sabres: if you’re going to be bad, get those picks right or you’ll be bad for the rest of eternity.

Ovechkin's Capitals have posted a 5-6-1 record against the West this season (Tom Turk/THW)

Ovechkin’s Capitals have posted a 5-6-1 record against the West this season (Tom Turk/THW)

1/12 @ Washington

These two met a few weeks ago and Miller stole the show at home. The Capitals outplayed the Sabres, outshooting them 50-17, yet the hometown crowd went home happy after a 2-1 shootout win for the Sabres.

Miller stopped 49 of 50 and everyone was reminded that Miller can be one of the best in the business when he’s on his game. The Sabres aren’t likely to be outshot that badly this time around; the Caps are struggling of late at 3-4-3 in their last 10. They get uneven goaltending, but can score with the best of them thanks to Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom.

Prediction for the week: 1-2-0

Ryan is a lead writer for The Hockey Writers as well as editor for Mile High Sticking and co-owner of The Farm Club. Follow him on Twitter to discuss all things puck, Bills football, or his hatred of all things Philly.


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