Sabres November Outlook: A Tale of Two Halves

The calendar has now flipped to the month of November. After an up and down opening month of the season, the Buffalo Sabres will look to find some consistency in November. The team will play 14 games this month with an even split of seven games at home and seven on the road. November could be a big month for Buffalo if they can string some wins together. It’ll not only have them sitting in a good place in the standings, but a good month will achieve the goal of staying afloat.

Easy Start, Difficult Finish

Looking at the month ahead getting off to a hot start may be key for the Sabres. The first seven games of the month they’ll face teams with a combined record of 21-15-6 and a .500 winning percentage. Those teams are the Minnesota Wild, Toronto Maple Leafs, Ottawa Senators (twice), Boston Bruins, and New Jersey Devils (twice).

Sidney Crosby
(Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The last seven games of the month, the schedule gets much more difficult. The Sabres opponents have a combined 36-22-5 record and a .571 winning percentage entering November. The caliber of the opponent also steps up a notch with the St. Louis Blues, Tampa Bay Lightning, Pittsburgh Penguins, Detroit Red Wings, Calgary Flames, Washington Capitals and Ottawa for a third time.

The Sabres will play every other night over the first 12 days of November, except for a home and home series with the Devils on the final two days of the seven-game stretch. Fatigue can certainly become an issue playing seven games in 12 nights. If you want to go back to the end of October it’s actually nine games in 15 days. Luckily, the longest trip the Sabres will have to make in the beginning of the month is to Minnesota.

The Return

Another important factor to getting off to a hot start to begin the month is the club may have reinforcements on the way at the end of November. Jack Eichel is out of his walking boot and appears to be progressing ahead of schedule. While Evander Kane is starting to do some cardio work this week according to head coach Dan Bylsma. Both players appear to be on track for a return to the ice around Thanksgiving or very beginning of December.

Coming out of October with eight points in eight games, the plan of staying with the pack in lieu of the injuries is still on track. Barring further injuries, the Sabres may only need to survive one more month without two of their key players.

Missing an opportunity to capitalize on a perceived soft spot in the schedule could set the plan back. A slow start to the month and a potentially very difficult end to the month could create a hole too big for Buffalo to dig out of. The season certainly won’t be over with a bad month. They’ll still only be two months into the season and the team will still have 60 games remaining at the end of the month. However, with the goal this season to be a playoff competitor, a double-digit point deficit from the playoff pack could be a tall task, even when healthy.

Even an average month will keep the hope of a playoff season alive when it looked so bleak nearly a month ago. If October was any indication, fans may want to buckle up and prepare for another up and down month.