Morning Skate: Sword Fight

BUFFALO, NY - DECEMBER 4: Darren Helm #43 of the Detroit Red Wings carries the puck as Derek Roy #9 of the Buffalo Sabres back checks during a NHL game at First Niagara Center on December 2, 2011 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

(NOTE: Everything above the jump is written by Graham and I wrote everything after the jump)

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Stop me if you heard this one before: the Red Wings, coming off a hard-fought, emotional win against the Chicago Blackhawks, take on a struggling Eastern Conference team before resuming their conference schedule.

2 days after taking it to the Hawks, the Red Wings welcome the Buffalo Sabres to Joe Louis Arena. This is the second time these teams have met, with the Wings winning 4-1 in Buffalo on December 2nd.

The last time that the Wings were in this position, they laid a turd in getting destroyed by the putrid New York Islanders. It was one of the worst efforts of the year, and it prompted a lot of discussions about just where this team was headed. While it was hard to look at one game and say that was a defining moment in the season, the general consensus was that great teams don't lose games like that, certainly not in that fashion.

A week later, and here we are again. The Sabres have had problems this season with consistency, and after going out and making a big splash in free agency, Buffalo is mired in mediocrity. They currently sit 7 points out of the 8th and final playoff spot in the East, and a big reason for their falling is Ryan Miller. The former Vezina-winner is having an awful season, posting a SV% of .903 (36th in the NHL) and a GAA of 2.97 (38th in the NHL). The Sabres have been a team that has relied on Miller to keep them in games, and with an offense that only scores 2.5 goals per game, his struggles have magnified the shortcomings of a team that doesn't appear ready to make the leap to contender.

The Wings have a big opportunity to take advantage of an inferior team and keep pace in the hyper-competitive Central Division. Squandering 2 points for the second week in a row is just plain unacceptable.

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Die By The Blade is the SB Nation Sabres' blog.

Puck drop is a little after 7:30 PM ET.


The Expected Lineup

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Johan Franzen -- Pavel Datsyuk -- Todd Bertuzzi

Valtteri Filppula -- Henrik Zetterberg -- Jiri Hudler

Danny Cleary -- Darren Helm -- Drew Miller

Cory Emmerton -- Justin Abdelkader -- Tomas Holmstrom

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Nicklas Lidstrom -- Ian White

Niklas Kronwall -- Brad Stuart

Jakub Kindl -- Jonathan Ericsson

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Jimmy Howard (starting)

Ty Conklin

Scratches: Jan Mursak

Injuries: Mike Commodore (foot/ankle) and Patrick Eaves (jaw)

SABRES HOW THEY MATCH UP RED WINGS
19-20-5 (43 pts; 11th in East) Record 28-15-1 (57 pts; 5th in West)
2.50 (23rd) Goals Per Game 3.16 (5th)
2.89 (22nd) Goals Against Per Game 2.34 (6th)
18.3% (12th) Power Play % 19.6% (6th)
83.1% (12th) Penalty Kill % 81.4% (22nd)
Thomas Vanek (19 goals) Goal Leader Johan Franzen (17 goals)
Jason Pominville (44 points) Points Leader Pavel Datsyuk (46 points)

  • The Red Wings are 49-52-13-1 (W-L-T-OTL) all-time against the Sabres. One of six teams the Wings have a losing record against throughout their history.
  • Detroit is going for their 15th straight win at home. A win tonight would set a new franchise record, breaking the previous mark set back in 1964-65.
  • The Sabres pay Ville Leino $6 million real dollars this season and he has a cap it of $4.5M. This season Leino has three goals and seven assists in 33 games. HAHA
  • I'll buy a Drew Miller jersey is he does his best Milan Lucic impression and takes a run at his brother and then claims he didn't see him and had no time to stop or get out of the way.
  • Flip has 7 points in his last 6 games, Datsyuk has 8 points in his last 6 games, and Mule has 5 points in last 6 games. Get those guys the puck tonight.

Prediction: The Wings have won 18 of their last 22 games against the Sabres and they make it 19 out of 23 tonight. Detroit wins 3-0 and Filppula is your player of the game.

Let's Go Red Wings.

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