After the All Star break, the Buffalo Sabres will look to snap their eleven game losing streak. The Sabres have struggled mightily as of late after putting together an impressive run in December. The Sabres will finish the month of January on a western road trip through western Canada.
According to WGR550 Radio and as reported on Sabres.com, through forty-seven games this season’s Sabres have two less points in comparison to last season’s team. The 2013-2014 squad in Buffalo set some historic lows that many hoped were in the rear view mirror. However, the Sabres are living like Bill Murray in the movie Groundhog Day as Buffalo is going through a déjà vu experience that is eerily similar to last season.
The Sabres are looking to hit the refresh button on their season to give their fans something to be excited about. Whether that excitement actually hits sometime during the remainder of the season or at the 2015 NHL Entry Draft remains to be seen. Here is a look at Buffalo’s upcoming matchups as the club heads out to Western Canada to end the month of January.
Flames Are Red Hot
The Calgary Flames will be the first team on the docket during Buffalo’s western road trip. Calgary became one of the NHL’s surprise teams in the early going of the season and have continued this trend as of late. After a difficult start to the month of December, which coincidentally happened right after I picked up the Flames in my fantasy league, Calgary has a 7-3-0 record in their last ten games. Buffalo’s eleven game losing streak will clash with the Flames’ four game winning streak – something’s gotta give!
Calgary’s success has come from many sources. The Flames are twelfth in the NHL in scoring and their success has been spearheaded by defenseman Mark Giordano. Giordano is having an excellent season where he is already in reach of setting career highs in goals, assists and total points. The thirty-one year old made his mark in Buffalo’s last game against the Flames by notching a power play goal and he has scored four points in his last five games.
Forwards Jiri Hudler and Sean Monahan are also strong contributors to Calgary’s squad this season. Hudler initially made his mark as a member of the Detroit Red Wings where he won a Stanley Cup in 2007. He joined the Flames for the 2012-2013 season and is having a particularly strong year. He is tied with Giordano for the team lead in points.
— Calgary Flames (@NHLFlames) January 20, 2015
Calgary’s sophomore forward Sean Monahan has future star potential. The twenty year old appeared in seventy-five games for the Flames last season where he tallied thirty-four points. He has nearly eclipsed this total already through forty-six games this season where he’s scored fourteen goals and twenty-nine points. The youngster has notched three game winning goals and eight points on the power play. Monahan figures to be a major part of the Flames’ future. This will be a very challenging game for the Sabres but a victory is possible as Buffalo defeated the Flames earlier this year by a 4-3 score.
May the Worst Team Lose
In a clash of the NHL’s basement dwellers the Sabres will face off against their ‘McEichel’ nemesis, the Edmonton Oilers. Despite similar positions in the NHL standings, the Edmonton Oilers have put a slightly better product on the ice so far this season. The Oliers’ one hundred six goals ranks the club in twenty-sixth place in goals scored and puts Edmonton’s offense twenty-three goals ahead of the Sabres.
The Sabres and Oilers met previously in Buffalo back in November. The Oilers were victorious in this contest by a 3-2 score and earned their first road win of the season. Edmonton outworked the Sabres in this contest out-shooting Buffalo fifty-two to thirty-one.
Edmonton has undergone a coaching change since then replacing Dallas Eakins with interim head coach Todd Nelson. The Oilers’ roster has also seen some turnover as forward David Perron was dealt to the Pittsburgh Penguins earlier this month in exchange for defenseman Rob Klinkhammer and a first round pick.
This game can go either way and it will hinge on whether the Sabres can garner momentum by having a decent outing in Calgary. The Sabres have proven to be a fragile club this season so a strong performance in Calgary could spark a victory in Edmonton. However, Edmonton’s last three victories were wins over the Blackhawks, Panthers and Capitals. The Sabres will need to be on top of their game to earn a win in Edmonton.
[See Also: Oilers Rebuild Can Still Be Salvaged by Rob Soria]
Battle of the 1970 Expansion Teams
The Buffalo Sabres and Vancouver Canucks entered the NHL together in 1970. Today the franchises are headed in very different directions. Buffalo is in the midst of a rebuild while Vancouver is currently in second place in the Pacific division.
Over the years there have been a number of trades between the Sabres and Canucks. According to NHLTradeTracker.com, in 1995 the Sabres sent forward Alexander Mogilny and a fifth round pick to Vancouver for Michael Peca, Mike Wilson and a first rounder. In 1998 the Sabres acquired Geoff Sanderson from Vancouver in exchange for Brad May and a third round pick.
Ryan Miller is the first #Canucks goalie to post a shutout on back-to-back nights since Ken Lockett on April 1 & 2, 1975
— Sportsnet Stats (@SNstats) January 17, 2015
This match will feature former Sabre Ryan Miller who signed with Vancouver during the offseason and has been playing well as of late. It will also feature former Sabre Zack Kassian and former Canuck Cody Hodgson who were once involved in a trade between the two clubs. These subplots will add an additional element to the game that will draw fans of both teams into this contest.
[See Also: 3 Must See Buffalo Sabres Games in January 2015]
In order to win this tilt, Buffalo will need to find a way to neutralize Vancouver’s top line of Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, and Radim Vrbata. This line has produced one hundred and eight points through Vancouver’s forty-five games this season. The Sedins’ goal production has fallen off a bit as both Henrik and Daniel have nine goals each on the season. However, the Sedins and Vrbata have helped the Canucks maintain a 26-16-3 record that currently has the club in the midst of the playoff race.
Tim joined The Hockey Writers in July 2013. He began his tenure with THW by covering the Minnesota Wild and he now writes on the Buffalo Sabres. Tim completed his undergraduate and graduate work at the University at Buffalo. In addition, he is a published historian and a Baltimore Orioles Contributing Writer for LegendsOnDeck.com. Tim’s work for THW has been featured on sites such as Yahoo.com. Follow him on Twitter @TOHockeyTHW