Tonight is the only meeting between the Detroit Red Wings and the Buffalo Sabres this season. The Sabres won the last meeting, 3-2 in a shootout on October 13th, 2006, in Detroit. This is the Wings' first trip to Buffalo since December 10th, 2003, when an injury-depleted Detroit squad took the Sabres apart, 7-2.
The puck drops at 6:00 pm EST.
The 31-25-9 Sabres finished March with an 8-4-3 record. They won more often than they lost during the first half of the month, posting five of those wins and just two shootout losses in the first thirteen days. Beginning with a pair of losses on the 16th and 17th (to the Rangers and Penguins though), the Sabres hit a hot-and-cold patch. They won their next two games, another back-to-back series (against Tampa Bay and Toronto), but lost the two after that (Rangers and Flyers). They doubled up the Predators 8-4 on February 27th and then lost to Montreal on the 29th, 6-2.
Tonight's game is the last of a five-game homestand for the Sabres, who are 17-11-4 in Buffalo.
The Sabres' 71 points are good for fourth in the Northeast Division and ninth in the Eastern Conference. They are just two points behind the Flyers in the conference standings, though they'd need three to enter the eighth seed.
Jason Pominville is the team leader in assists and points with 40 and 59 respectively. Derek Roy is not far behind with 58 points. Tomas Vanek is the team leader in goals with 27, while Roy has 25. Deadline acqusition Steve Bernier has 15 goals and 26 points, but he had a big night in his debut with the Sabres, scoring two goals and notching an assist against the Predators.
It looks like Michael Ryan (groin) and Jochen Hecht (leg) are both out. The Buffalo News reports that Toni Lydman did not practice yesterday due to back spasms, however, there's no word on his status for the game tonight.
Projected Sabre lines:
Ryan Miller should be the starter tonight.
For the Sabres' side of things, see The Willful Caboose, BfloBlog, Buffalo Love, Die By The Blade (preview here), Dispatches from the Aud, The Goose's Roost (preview here), Sabre Rattling, and Top Shelf.
The Wings finished February 4-8-2. Their only wins came in the first three games of the month and in a brief respite from the general losing trend on the 18th. They are coming off a 3-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks on Friday night.
The Wings remain atop the NHL with 90 points, but they are just three ahead of Dallas.
Henrik Zetterberg leads the team in goals with 36. He and Pavel Datsyuk are tied in points with 75 each. Datsyuk's 52 assists are a team high.
A number of Red Wing forwards are in slumps, but of those that are expected to score, Jiri Hudler's 19-game skid is the worst. Hopefully the vote of confidence he received by not being traded at the deadline will turn into some goals.
The Wings will be without Brian Rafalski (groin) for hopefully the last time. He has missed the last seven games, but is expected to return Wednesday night.
Nick Lidstrom (knee sprain) will miss his fifth straight game.
Chris Chelios (chipped bone, right leg) will sit out for a fourth game.
Dan Cleary (broken jaw) remains out.
Dominik Hasek will start tonight.
For more of the Wings' perspective, see: Snapshots, Abel to Yzerman, HockeyTownTodd, Behind the Jersey, No Pun Intended, Red Wings Nation, yzerman is god, Detroit Hockey, LetsGoWings, Red Wings Brasil, and Winging It In Motown.
Although the Sharks outplayed them by a fair margin, the Wings looked better Friday night than they have in a while. As long as they can build on that, they should be in a decent position tonight. Relative to western opponents, the Sabres are an unknown quantity, and that could cause the Wings some problems. If, however, they focus on playing a strong defensive game and remain dangerous on the power play, they should be in good shape to end the skid.