The Buffalo Sabres welcome in the Winnipeg Jets for their annual visit this afternoon. Now, two years removed, the story line of the big trade has started to fade. Tyler Myers will not be in the lineup again for the Jets, missing his second chance for a homecoming with the club that drafted him in the first round.
For Evander Kane, his visits back to Winnipeg are more of a headline than his former team making a visit to his new home. Former Sabres Drew Stafford and Joel Armia will be in the lineup tomorrow, however.
The Jets are wrapping up a three-game eastern road trip. They’ve picked up victories in the first two games of the trip against the Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers, scoring ten goals in those two games. Winnipeg is a team who has the potential to run up the score with some high-end talent on the roster. They entered Friday night’s game tied for ninth in the NHL in scoring, but 27th in goals allowed.
After a disappointing end to 2016, the Sabres picked up three of a possible four points on a brief road trip against the Eastern Conference-leading New York Rangers and Western Conference second-ranked Chicago Blackhawks. They’ve found their scoring touch again, scoring seven goals in the past two games.
Buffalo will need to take advantage of the games at home this month. They’ll only play in their own building four times over the remaining 11 games in January. Two of those four home games come in the next four days, meaning they’ll spend the majority of the next three weeks picking up some frequent flyer miles.
Winnipeg Jets at Buffalo Sabres
Key Bank Center – 1 p.m. EST
Broadcast channels – MSG-B & TSN-3
2016-17 Season Series: October 30th – Sabres 3 Jets 1
Winnipeg Jets – 19-19-3 – 41 Points
Road Record: 9-11-2
Hot Players: Nikolaj Ehlers and Patrik Laine
Key Injuries: Tyler Myers and Marco Dano
Nikolaj Ehlers – Mark Scheifele – Patrik Laine
Mathieu Perreault – Bryan Little – Blake Wheeler
Shawn Matthias – Adam Lowry – Joel Armia
Andrew Copp – Nicolas Petan – Drew Stafford
John Morrissey – Dustin Byfuglien
Tobias Enstrom – Jacob Trouba
Ben Chairot – Paul Postma
Buffalo Sabres – 14-15-9 – 37 Points
Home Record: 7-8-3
Hot Players: Kyle Okposo and Sam Reinhart
Key Injuries: Tyler Ennis, Dmitry Kulikov and Johan Larsson
Kyle Okposo – Jack Eichel – Marcus Foligno
Evander Kane – Sam Reinhart – Justin Bailey
Zemgus Girgensons – Ryan O’Reilly – Will Carrier
Matt Moulson – Zemgus Girgensons – Nic Deslauriers
Rasmus Ristolainen – Jake McCabe
Zach Bogosian – Cody Franson
Taylor Fedun – Josh Gorges
1) The former Sabres players that were part of that big trade a few years ago have not been as impactful as the Jets may have hoped. Tyler Myers is out again with a lower-body injury and hasn’t played since November 11. His return is still a question mark as he hasn’t begun skating again yet. Drew Stafford is struggling with only six points in 26 games and has been demoted to a fourth line role. Joel Armia is still a young prospect but has been up and down between the NHL and minors. He only has four points in 16 NHL games this season.
2) The first line for the Winnipeg Jets is an absolutely dynamic trio. Nikolaj Ehlers, Mark Scheifele, and Patrik Laine have combined for 51 goals and 107 points on the season. The size of Scheifele and Laine, combined with dynamic speed of Ehlers is a dangerous mix. All three know how the find the back of the net and can give their opponents nightmares if they’re not contained.
3) Sam Reinhart has picked his game up over the past week or two. He’s moved back to his natural center position in the wake of the Johan Larsson injury and hasn’t missed a beat. He’s recorded four points in his last five games and eight in the last ten. The Sabres future looks good down the middle with Reinhart, Jack Eichel, and Ryan O’Reilly
4) Robin Lehner will likely draw back into the net today. Anders Nilsson has played the previous two games after earning the start with his strong play. Head coach Dan Bylsma indicated that Lehner had some “bumps and bruises” which was one of the reasons for him not playing in Chicago. The goaltender conversation has continued to circulate around the club when other issues should be in the forefront.
5) Both the Jets and Sabres are battling to get back into the playoff conversation in their respective conferences. The Sabres enter play today eight points back of the last wild-card spot and seven points behind third place in the Atlantic currently held by the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Jets are only a point back of the final wild-card spot in the West and four points back of third place in the Central.
The Sabres will need to be on their game defensively. The Jets have some players in their lineup that can make you look silly if you’re not sound positionally. The Sabres will need to jump on the Jets early like they did in their last meeting back in October. If they allow the Jets to get their offense going early the score could become out of hand rather quickly.