The Buffalo Sabres welcome the Detroit Red Wings to Buffalo tonight for their final visit of the season. The two clubs have split the season series with both teams winning on the road. The Sabres and Wings have had very similar seasons to this point. Both have been extremely inconsistent and that is why they find themselves sitting 14th and 16th in the Eastern Conference entering play tonight.
The Red Wings are flirting with ending the longest playoff streak in NHL history. The possibility of the 25-year streak ending is becoming more realistic by the day. They’re a team in transition that lost their star player in Pavel Datsyuk over the summer as he returned to Russia to finish his hockey career. Henrik Zetterberg is on the backend of his career, as is defenseman Niklas Kronwall.
The future of the Wings relies upon young players like Gustav Nyquist, Dylan Larkin, Andreas Athanasiou and Anthony Mantha. The transition hasn’t gone as smooth as the Red Wings would have liked so far this season, but they do have a group of bright players to build around. The Wings come in playing well after a difficult December. They’ve won three straight including a big comeback win against the Boston Bruins on Wednesday night.
In regards to the Sabres, they’re in a similar position but have fully transitioned into a younger roster that is still trying to come together. Consistency has been what has held them back this season. They’ve shown signs of having what it takes to be a good team in the league. However, they haven’t been able to put it together in long stretches of games or within the individual game itself. With the possibility of being in the playoff race slipping away, the team needs to find to try to find that consistency that has eluded them through 44 games.
Detroit Red Wings at Buffalo Sabres
Key Bank Center – 7 p.m. EST
Broadcast channels – MSG-B & FS-D
2016-17 Season Series: November 23rd Red Wings 2 Sabres 1 (SO) | December 27th Sabres 4 Red Wings 3
Detroit Red Wings – 20-19-6 – 46 Points
Road Record: 10-9-3
Hot Players: Thomas Vanek and Gustav Nyquist
Key Injuries: Jimmy Howard, Niklas Kronwall, and Brendan Smith
Gustav Nyquist – Henrik Zetterberg – Anthony Mantha
Andreas Athanasiou – Frans Nielsen – Thomas Vanek
Tomas Tatar – Riley Sheahan – Dylan Larkin
Justin Abdelkader – Luke Glendening – Darren Helm
Danny DeKeyser – Mike Green
Jonathan Ericsson – Alexey Marchenko
Xavier Ouellet – Nick Jensen
* Lines subject to change
Buffalo Sabres – 17-18-9 – 43 Points
Home Record: 10-8-3
Hot Players: Ryan O’Reilly and Sam Reinhart
Key Injuries: Josh Gorges, Dmitry Kulikov, 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 – Jake McCabe
Zach Bogosian – Cody Franson
Taylor Fedun – Justin Falk
** Lines subject to change.
1) Former Buffalo Sabres star Thomas Vanek is having a career resurgence this season with the Red Wings. He has 12 goals and 31 points in 34 games this season. He’s become one of the hottest commodities in the rumor mill for teams looking for a rental. Reports in the summer indicated that Vanek wanted to return to Buffalo, which makes his strong season even more interesting in what could have been for the Sabres.
2) Tyler Ennis will be back in the lineup for the Sabres playing one game and then sitting out the game against the Toronto Maple Leafs the following evening as a precaution. Ennis looked very good in his return from injury against the Dallas Stars on Monday. He scored 19 seconds into the game and looked to have the speed back in his game.
Coach Bylsma: Ennis will return to the lineup tonight, and Nilsson starts in goal. pic.twitter.com/vmISWXqFlY
— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) January 20, 2017
3) Darren Helm will return to the lineup for the Red Wings tonight. He’s been out since Nov. 15 with a shoulder injury. Prior to the injury, he had seven points in 17 games. Helm adds speed to the Red Wings lineup as well as a very good penalty killer.
4) Andreas Athanasiou is a player to watch tonight for the Wings. The 22-year old has game changing speed and great skill to go along with that. He’s scored ten goals and 15 points in 30 games this season. Athanasiou is part of the new wave of young talent that is preparing to take over for the transitioning Red Wings.
5) The Sabres have scored first in five straight games now, but have only came away victorious twice during that stretch. It appears they’ve corrected the issue of the slow starts, but now they’re struggling to maintain leads. This is just another sign of the inconsistency that has followed the team all season long. They have a difficult time playing three strong periods which has caused the Sabres to miss out on important points throughout the season.