Preview: Sabres Look to Gain Ground on the Flyers

The Buffalo Sabres will host an Eastern Conference rival tonight in the Philadelphia Flyers. Last time these two clubs got together back in October, the Sabres had one of their toughest defeats of the season. They blew a three-goal third-period lead and ended up losing 4-3 in a shootout.

Claude Giroux and Sam Reinhart , Philadelphia Flyers vs Buffalo Sabres - October 25, 2016 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)
(Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Since then the two clubs have taken different paths to get to tonight. The Flyers put together a 10 game winning streak to start off the month of December. Since then they’ve gone 2-5-3 and are falling back to the pack in the wild-card race in the East. The Sabres have been residents of the Eastern Conference basement for the majority of the season, but have started the year 2-0-1 with wins over the New York Rangers and Winnipeg Jets.

Tonight lines up as another opportunity for Buffalo to gain ground in the standings on a team ahead of them. Philadelphia comes in really struggling and playing their third game in four nights. The Sabres have let this opportunity slip through their hands time and again in the first half of the season. If they want to entertain any ideas of being in the playoff conversation games like tonight are ones they need to have.

The players have discussed how disappointed they were with the effort against the Bruins in the final two games of December. Tonight is the type of game where they need to play well and show it all wasn’t just talk.


Philadelphia Flyers at Buffalo Sabres

Key Bank Center – 7 p.m. EST

Broadcast channels – MSG-B & CSN-PH

2016-17 Season Series: October 25th – Flyers 4 Sabres 3 (SO) 

Philadelphia Flyers – 21-15-6 – 48 Points

Road Record: 8-9-3

Hot Players: Brayden Schenn and Jakub Voracek

Key Injuries: Mark Streit

Projected lines:


Michael Raffl – Claude Giroux – Matt Read

Travis Konecny – Sean Couturier – Jakub Voracek

Dale Weise – Brayden Schenn – Wayne Simmonds

Chris VandeVelde – Pierre-Edouard Bellemare – Roman Lyubimov


Ivan Provorov – Andrew MacDonald

Michael Del Zotto – Radko Gudas

Brandon Manning – Shayne Gostisbehere


Michal Neuvirth


Buffalo Sabres – 15-15-9 – 39 Points

Home Record: 8-8-3

Hot Players:  Ryan O’Reilly and Sam Reinhart

Key Injuries: Tyler Ennis, Josh Gorges, Dmitry Kulikov, and Johan Larsson

Projected lines:


Brian Gionta – Jack Eichel – Marcus Foligno

Kyle Okposo – Ryan O’Reilly – Will Carrier

Evander Kane – Sam Reinhart – Justin Bailey

Matt Moulson – Zemgus Girgensons – Nic Deslauriers


Rasmus Ristolainen – Jake McCabe

Zach Bogosian – Cody Franson

Taylor Fedun – Justin Falk


Anders Nilsson

Game Notes

[miptheme_dropcap style=”normal” color=”#222222″ background=””]1)[/miptheme_dropcap] Anders Nilsson will start tonight for the Sabres in place of Robin Lehner who is out with the flu. Nilsson is 2-1-2 in his last five starts and has a .912 save percentage over those five games. The 26-year old will likely see the crease at least twice this week with a back to back on schedule for Thursday and Friday.

[miptheme_dropcap style=”normal” color=”#222222″ background=””]2)[/miptheme_dropcap] The Flyers bring a few intriguing young players into town. Travis Konecny and Ivan Provorov are two first round picks from the 2015 NHL draft. Konecny gave the Sabres fits back in October and Provorov is a solid defender who can be a factor at both ends of the ice.

[miptheme_dropcap style=”normal” color=”#222222″ background=””]3)[/miptheme_dropcap] Sam Reinhart was practicing alongside Jack Eichel yesterday, but he’ll start tonight playing at center with Evander Kane and Justin Bailey. Bylsma, however, did indicate he plans to shorten the bench as the game goes on and anticipates Reinhart seeing some time on the wing with Eichel.

[miptheme_dropcap style=”normal” color=”#222222″ background=””]4)[/miptheme_dropcap] After a very strong December, Steve Mason has struggled as of late. His numbers on the season have risen back up to a 2.79 goals against average and a .903 save percentage. Michal Neuvirth has recently returned from injury but hasn’t faired much better than Mason in ten appearances with a 3.35 goals against average and a .867 save percentage.

[miptheme_dropcap style=”normal” color=”#222222″ background=””]5)[/miptheme_dropcap] A win tonight will move the Sabres within five points of the idle Ottawa Senators who currently hold third place in the Atlantic Division. They would also move within seven points of the Flyers who hold the final wild-card spot and the Sabres also hold three games in hand on Philadelphia.

Another opportunity to gain ground in the Eastern Conference has presented itself to the Sabres. They need to get away from the trend of starting slow and get on a team who has fallen on hard times as of late. I’ve mentioned this numerous times over the last month or so. Not only is it an opportunity to gain ground, but to keep a team ahead of you, who are struggling, down on the mat. Not allowing a team to gain confidence on your behalf is just as important as winning the game.