The Buffalo Sabres will take to the ice tonight in the third contest of a seven-game road trip as they take on the Chicago Blackhawks inside the United Center.
Cynicism has been rampant since Buffalo’s embarrassing 5-0 defeat at the hands of the Detroit Red Wings Monday night, which was arguably the lowest point that the organizational has sunk to in several years. Fans and media alike continue to question the ability of every person involved in the organization; players, coaches, and even once-beloved executives.
It does not appear that the road to recovery will get any easier for the Sabres tonight. The Blackhawks are just one point out of first place in the Western Conference, and only two points from leading the entire league in points.
Chicagois especially dangerous on home ice, with one of the league’s best records at 17-5-4. The Blackhawks have won their last three matches at home, while Buffalo is ambling along a nine-game road losing streak.
For Buffalo to compete they will need to somehow figure out their defensive woes, as Chicago sits with the 5th best offense in the league at 3.2 goals per game. Three different Blackhawks forwards have already accrued 40 points, while Buffalo native Patrick Kane also continues to be a key component of their offense with 39 points on the season thus far.
Stifling Chicago’s goal-scoring flair will be a serious undertaking for the Sabres, who possess a turnover-happy defense core which allows the sixth most shots on goal per game in the NHL. That has the makings for disaster against Chicago, who average over 32 shots on goal a contest.
The Sabres also have to worry about their two struggling goaltenders. Ryan Miller’s stats have tumbled to a 3.12 goals against average and a .898 save percentage- both currently the worst of his NHL career. Backup Jhonas Enroth has not won a game in six starts
Chicago’s goaltending is suspect, as well. Both Blackhawks netminders- Corey Crawford and Ray Emery- sport middling numbers. Neither has a goals against average better than 2.67 per game, or a save percentage above .907%.
But for Buffalo to exploit that weakness, their own offense has to reawaken. The Sabres have only scored more than two goals twice in their last ten games, and have been shut out in two of their last four contests.
Tonight’s game is scheduled to commence at 7:30 EST. It will be the first time in over two weeks that Time Warner Cable customers will be able to watch the action from their own homes, as the game will be broadcast by the NBC Sports Network (formerly known as Versus) and not MSG. Fans can also listen in through WGR 550.