Time: 7:00 PM EST
Place: Little Caesars Arena
TV: BSDET, MSG-B
Radio: WXYT-97.1 FM
Sabres Blog: Die By The Blade
The struggling Red Wings are hoping hosting the Buffalo Sabres tonight at Little Caesars is just what the doctor ordered. Since the shutdown over Christmas Detroit is just 1-4-2 and have been outscored 23-13 over that stretch. Buffalo snagged their first win after the shutdown on Thursday, for an overall 1-4-1 record since the restart, being outscored 22-14. This marks the first of a pair of back to back games against Buffalo tonight and Monday.
Detroit has benefitted largely from home cooking at the LCA this year, but that hasn’t helped recently either, getting blanked by Winnipeg 3-0 at home on Thursday. Despite a better effort than some of their games on the west coast swing, Detroit couldn’t beat Hellebuyck on 33 shots.
With Aaron Dell the expected starter, Detroit will look to make up for what they couldn’t do against the Vezina caliber Hellebuyck. Dell sports a 1-5-0 record this season behind a 3.87 GAA and .887 SV%. Those numbers are certainly ripe for pouring a few goals in. Should Dell get the rest instead, Michael Houser appears to be the current backup who has yet to play this year.
Detroit will look to Tyler Bertuzzi to remain the hot hand with 5 goals and 7 points in his last 6 games since the calendar rolled over. He, along with linemates Larkin and Raymond will be looked to as the driving force once again. But the Wings hope Buffalo is a good bet for getting some secondary scoring going as well. Namestnikov, one of the leaders in that category has one goal since December 10. Suter has 3 goals since the restart, but none in the last 4 games. Fabbri is riding a rather cold streak with only a single point (1 goal) since December 9. This is not a new storyline for Detroit as they have relied heavily on the top line all season long. But December and January thus far have revealed just how poor the secondary group is right now behind them.
On the back end, Seider looked no worse for wear in terms of his play on Thursday after returning from a puck to the ear in the previous game. The rookie defenseman continues to impress, but you wonder if seeing the extended minutes he does will start to catch up with him a bit, having never faced the grind of an 82-game season before. But he’s an efficient defender who may be able to escape the rookie wall. Aside from Seider look to see if following the shutout loss, Oesterle gets back into the lineup or not.
No new injuries for Detroit either, with most of the roster being available other than the group that has been and will be out for awhile yet. The Wings should have plenty of chances to take out their recent frustrations on the Sabres goal light.
As for the Sabres, they have an eye-opening FOUR goaltenders out with injuries between Tokarski (13 starts), Luukkonen (9 starts), Anderson (6 starts), and Subban (3 starts). That leaves only the aforementioned Dell with 5 starts this season and Houser receiving his first callup since last season. Aside from the goalies they are also missing Casey Mittelstadt, Peyton Krebs, and leading scorer Tage Thompson.
The oft-criticized Jeff Skinner is the Sabres leading scorer of late with 4 goals (0 assists) in 4 games since the restart. Kyle Okposo is having a bit of a bounceback campaign with 23 points in 34 games, already his highest total since the 2018-19 season and on pace to be his best season since his days in Long Island.
On the Sabres blue line, former top pick Rasmus Dahlin is also returning to form with 22 points in 36 games and on track to put up numbers more on par with when he entered the league, if not better. His play overall has improved as well. Dahlin is only 21 but it feels like he’s been through a lot already in Buffalo.
Alex Tuch, acquired in the Eichel trade, is a player to keep an eye for playing on the top line with Cozens and Skinner. He has 4 points in 4 games since joining the Sabres. Beyond that line, Buffalo is understandably fairly thin with a few players posting between 12-20 points, which is honestly probably more than expected coming into the season.
The Wings are slipping out of the playoff picture quickly and while that was somewhat expected, the team has performed well below expectations during their recent skid. Buffalo is the perfect candidate to try to find their game again.