Tonight the Buffalo Sabres take on the Montreal Canadiens on home ice. Both teams are coming off a rest day which makes for what could be a very quick game of hockey. The Sabres must regroup after a tough loss in Winnipeg that made the playoffs all but a faint hope in Buffalo. Montreal is also coming off a loss by the score of 3-2 to the red hot Capitals.
The loss to the Jets marked the end of a convincing three game winning streak for Buffalo where it looked like the team was really gaining momentum. Yet, the Sabres looked a little flat Tuesday night, especially in the second period when the team allowed three goals. Tuesday night’s game was practically a playoff game concerning Buffalo’s postseason hopes and they failed to come away with a win.
The Sabres face a very good Montreal team that sits in 2nd place in the conference with 55 points, yet Buffalo holds a 3-1 season series lead. Despite the edge in the season series, Montreal is always a dangerous team to deal with because of a stingy defense and a plethora of quick skilled forwards.
A noted difference in Buffalo’s play during their winning stretch was their ability to sustain pressure in the offensive zone, something they have struggled with all season. Except for small portions of the third frame, Buffalo was unable to sustain pressure against the Jets. In fact, they had trouble getting out of the zone with the man advantage in the vital late stages of the game.
In order for Buffalo to snag a win at home they will have to implement a punishing forecheck and hold the puck in the zone. Too much of their offense has relied on flinging the puck on net from bad angles instead of setting up in the zone. In order to do this they must be able to clear the zone quickly and efficiently instead of trying to make the extra play or taking the lazy way out.
Thomas Vanek made his return to the team on Tuesday and his impact was a mixed bag. His ability to hang onto the puck and create chances was immediately felt as is usually the case with players of his caliber. However, Vanek did seem a little sore and looked as if he was in discomfort after certain hard hits or when hustling for the puck. Given his history of playing while still moderately injured it may be a safe assumption to say he is still feeling a little pain. Nonetheless, his return helps the team.
Buffalo looks to avoid dropping two straight games tonight in front of their home fans. The puck drops at 7:30 PM and you can catch the action on MSG.