Building momentum is something the Sabres have struggled with thus far, but tonight they have a chance on the road against the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum.
Even though the Islanders come into this game holding the 10th spot in the East and Buffalo resting in 14th, both teams are tied at nine points. In fact, the five teams occupying the 10-14th spots all have nine points, making this game a stepping stone toward playoff relevance.
The Sabres have been a dismal 3-6-1 in their last ten contests but, they are still only one point out of the highly sought after 8th and final playoff position. The New York Islanders haven’t fared much better at 4-5-1, but they are hot on the tail of their New York counterparts, the Rangers, and the current possessor of the final playoff spot, Carolina.
Buffalo has an opportunity to take their win against Montreal and pick up another two points against the struggling Islanders who have dropped their last three games. Offensively, New York has been having a hard time finding the back of the net; the Devils shut them out at home and they only managed three goals in their last two games.
Yet, against the Sabres’ struggling defense, the Islanders offensive squad might get going again, especially with the emergence of John Tavares as a top tier threat.
Buffalo’s last game was a shootout win against divisional opponent, Montreal. It was not an ideal win – sloppy play and turnovers prevalent throughout – but the takeaway from that game was the resilience shown by the home team. Thomas Vanek personally shouldered the late two goal deficit and shoveled home his league leading 9th and 10th goals.
Also starting to come on strong is Tyler Ennis, who was red hot at the end of last season, but got off to a slow start in 2013. The 23-year-old forward brings energy, creativity and great hands to an offense struggling to find secondary scoring. Vanek can’t carry the team by himself and Ennis has stepped up with two goals in the last two games, and three in the last five. His effort has been exceptional and he even stepped his physical play up against the Habs.
Look for the Sabres to come out swinging and attempt to put the Islanders away early in order to reserve themselves for Sunday’s game against Boston which will likely be a physical affair. A win for the Sabres could go a long way toward their confidence and playoff chances.
The game is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. EST and will be aired on MSG.