The Buffalo Sabres will meet the Dallas Stars for the second time in ten days. This time the two clubs will get together at American Airlines Center in Dallas. Since the last meeting, where the Sabres skated to a 4-1 victory, the two teams have headed in different directions.
The Stars have really struggled, losing three of their last four since the Jan. 16th meeting. Overall in the month of January, they’re 3-5-3 and have dropped to four points back of the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference entering play tonight. Dallas also sits six points back of third place in the Central Division.
Injuries have been a huge story for the Stars throughout the season and the goaltending has continued to be inconsistent for the second straight year. Combine that with the down years of key players like Patrick Sharp, Jason Spezza and John Klingberg it’s easy to see why the Stars find themselves where they are in the standings.
The Sabres, on the other hand, have won three of four games since the last meeting and are riding a three-game winning streak, all of which were in overtime. They’re having a good month so far, going 7-3-1, and have climbed back into the playoff conversation in the Eastern Conference. Entering play tonight the Sabres are five points back of the final wild-card spot and six points out of third place in the Atlantic Division.
Both of these teams badly need points tonight but for different reasons. The Stars are looking to get back on the winning side of things and get themselves closer to a playoff spot, while the Sabres are looking to win four straight games for the first time in two years and continue their push to be a legitimate playoff contender.
Buffalo Sabres at Dallas Stars
American Airlines Center – 8:30 p.m. EST
Broadcast channels – MSG-B & FS-SW
2016-17 Season Series: January 16th, Sabres 4 Stars 1
Dallas Stars – 19-20-10 – 48 Points
Home Record: 12-7-6
Hot Players: Jamie Benn and Patrick Eaves
Key Injuries: Mattias Janmark, Radek Faksa and Ales Hemsky
Jamie Benn – Cody Eakin – Patrick Eaves
Antoine Roussel – Tyler Seguin – Jason Spezza
Lori Korpikoski – Devin Shore – Patrick Sharp
Curtis McKenzie – Adam Cracknell – Brett Ritchie
Esa Lindell – John Klingberg
Patrick Nemeth – Stephen Johns
Dan Hamhuis – Jordie Benn
* Lines subject to change
Buffalo Sabres – 20-18-9 – 49 Points
Road Record: 9-10-6
Hot Players: Ryan O’Reilly and Jack Eichel
Key Injuries: Josh Gorges, Jake McCabe, and Johan Larsson
Marcus Foligno – Jack Eichel – Sam Reinhart
Kyle Okposo – Ryan O’Reilly – Tyler Ennis
Evander Kane – Zemgus Girgensons – Brian Gionta
Matt Moulson – Cal O’Reilly – William Carrier
Rasmus Ristolainen – Dmitry Kulikov
Zach Bogosian – Cody Franson
Taylor Fedun – Justin Falk
** Lines subject to change.
1) The Sabres have been the worst team in the NHL this season in point production from their defense. Almost the entirety of the point total has come from Rasmus Ristolainen and his 28 points. However, over the last few games, the point production from the blue line has come to life. Cody Franson has four points in the last three games and Zach Bogosian has points in two straight, including the game-winning goal against the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday. The improved depth scoring is one of the keys to the Sabres recent winning streak.
2) The goaltending numbers for the Stars continue to be among the worst in the league. Lehtonen sports a 2.84 goals against average and a .901 save percentage. Antti Niemi’s numbers are just as bad with a 3.14 goals against average and a .902 save percentage. Having two goaltenders who are barely over a .900 save percentage in today’s NHL is a huge problem. It’s still pretty shocking that the goaltending issue was never addressed, and the team is paying the price this season. Niemi will start tonight for the Stars.
3) The Sabres are 2-6 in American Airlines Center in their franchise history. A stat that certainly bodes well for the Stars tonight. The last Sabres win in Dallas came on Jan. 15th, 2009, a 5-4 shootout win.
4) Anders Nilsson will be back in net for the Sabres tonight. Nilsson picked up a win in his last game against the Detroit Red Wings last week. He’s played very well at home this season but has much worse numbers on the road with a 2-5-3 record, 3.11 goals against average and .905 save percentage.
5) Last week Jamie Benn left Buffalo a very unhappy guy after breaking three sticks in frustration. He has five points in his last five games and I expect him to give the Sabres all the can handle tonight. Benn is one of the most dangerous players in the league and has the ability to take over a game to put his team over the top.