The Nashville Predators are in action again tonight, hoping to extend their win streak against a Buffalo Sabres team that could really use a win of their own. The Preds remain without Filip Forsberg, and Mark Borowiecki is also not available due to the injury he sustained in Tuesday’s game.
The Sabres have lost the last six games they’ve played; with interruptions for COVID-19 and Christmas their last win was on December 16th, in a shootout against the Minnesota Wild. They need another win, for team morale and player development if not for their spot in the standings (they’re 10-19-6 this season and sixth in the Atlantic at the moment), and the Preds—again—will need to be wary of taking this game too easy.
Tage Thompson is the Sabres’ points leader with 23 and goals leader with 12, while Rasmus Dahlin is right behind him with 22 points and a team-leading 16 assists. Winger Viktor Olofsson is second in assists with 15, while Jeff Skinner’s 11 goals come right behind Thompson’s. An encouraging point for the Sabres as an organization has to be that none of these four players are over 30 (though Skinner is close), and that Kyle Okposo is the only player with double-digit points (he has 21, 7G/14A) who is.
The bigger story, of course, is that the Sabres are heading into tonight with their fifth-string goalie. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, who started the game, and Malcolm Subban, who finished it, were both injured in Tuesday’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Sabres have recalled Aaron Dell, with a NHL season sv% of .872, and signed Dell’s fellow Rochester Amerks goalie Michael Houser.
On paper, it does not look great for the Sabres tonight. They’ve struggled this season offensively, defensively, generating offense on the power play, and preventing offense on the penalty kill. They’ve had a hard time getting saves, and while they’ve converted their shots a little better than might be expected they’ve had such a hard time consistently getting quality chances that they still struggle to score.
They have actually exceeded expectations at both ends of the ice in power play and penalty kill results, which works out to pretty average conversion percentages for both despite wince-inducing xG rates. Their power play shooting in particular has been exceptionally good. The Preds would be well-advised to stay out of the box; there are not snacks.
How to Watch
The game airs at 7PM on Bally Sports South and 102.5 The Game.