The Buffalo Sabres and Arizona Coyotes will meet for the second time in less than a week. The Coyotes pulled out a third-period comeback victory on Sunday night in Arizona by a 3-2 score. A game that may have been the final nail in the coffin for the Sabres playoff hopes this season.
Now, after the trade deadline, these two teams can focus on playing out the final month and a half of what has been a disappointing season for both clubs. The Coyotes sold off pieces like Michael Stone, Martin Hanzal and Ryan White as new general manager John Chayka looks to rebuild his club back to a contender in the Western Conference.
The Sabres, on the other hand, made no moves at the deadline and are looking to finish strong in their final 19 games. The playoffs are not officially dead, but six points out of the final wild-card spot with less than 20 games remaining is a very tough task. The club has shown no signs of being able to put more than three-game winning streaks together in two years now. The focus for the team now should be on improving upon an 81 point total they accrued last season.
Arizona Coyotes at Buffalo Sabres
Key Bank Center – 7:00 p.m. EST
Broadcast channels – MSG-B & FW-MW
2016-17 Season Series: Feb. 26 – Coyotes 3, Sabres 2
Arizona Coyotes – 22-33-7 – 51 Points
Road Record: 8-19-4
Hot Players: Radim Vrbata
Key Injuries: Brad Richardson
Brendan Perlini – Peter Holland – Radim Vrbata
Max Domi – Christian Dvorak – Teemu Pulkkinen
Jamie McGinn – Jordan Martinook – Tobias Rieder
Lawson Crouse – Josh Jooris – Shane Doan
Oliver Ekman-Larsson – Alex Goligoski
Jakob Chychrun – Connor Murphy
Kevin Connauton – Luke Schenn
* Lines subject to change
Buffalo Sabres – 26-26-11 – 63 Points
Home Record: 15-11-5
Hot Players: Evander Kane and Jack Eichel
Key Injuries: William Carrier and Johan Larsson
Marcus Foligno – Jack Eichel – Sam Reinhart
Kyle Okposo – Ryan O’Reilly – Tyler Ennis
Evander Kane – Zemgus Girgensons – Brian Gionta
Justin Bailey – Evan Rodrigues – Matt Moulson
Rasmus Ristolainen – Jake McCabe
Dmitry Kulikov – Josh Gorges
Cody Franson – Zach Bogosian
** Lines subject to change.
1) Robin Lehner will start in goal for the Sabres again tonight. After a good stretch, Lehner has allowed at least four goals in his last three appearances. The Coyotes will counter with Mike Smith who has struggled as of late as well allowing ten goals combined in his last two appearances.
2) Radim Vrbata was a big name in the trade market yesterday, but at the end of the day remained in Arizona where he wanted to be. The 35-year old veteran leads the team in scoring and has been hot as of late. He’s recorded seven points in his last five games, one of which was the game-winning goal against the Sabres on Sunday with less than 30 seconds remaining.
3) Jack Eichel has quietly been on a hot streak as of late for the Sabres. He’s not scoring goals at a big rate, but the 20-year old has been very productive regardless. He’s on a seven-game point streak and has put up 12 points in his last ten games. Eichel is scoring at 72 points per 82 game pace so far this season. It’s really unfortunate for the Sabres he missed those first 21 games.
4) Tyler Ennis will be promoted to a top six role tonight playing with Ryan O’Reilly and Kyle Okposo. The 27-year old winger has four goals and nine points in 32 games as he looks to regain his 20 goals per season form. After a few weeks skating on the fourth thing, Ennis appears to be getting his shot to prove not only to the Sabres but the rest of the league that he hasn’t been slowed down by recent injury problems.
5) When you think of Coyotes and Sabres matchup’s it’s hard not to remember the “tank game” nearly two years ago in Buffalo. The two clubs faced off in a game neither fan base wanted their team to win in hopes of improving the odds of drafting either Connor McDavid or Eichel. The Coyotes would end up winning the game in overtime and the rest is history. However, we all remember the fan and player reactions from that night. If not, here’s a quick reminder for you.