Main storyline: It will be game 72 on Saturday night for the Buffalo Sabres (20-44-7) who are coming off of a 3-1 loss on Friday night against the New Jersey Devils. Buffalo is back to work quickly as the team is in Nashville to play the slumping Predators (43-21-8) at Bridgestone Arena.
Season series: Saturday is the second and final meeting between the two clubs. The last meeting came back on February 22 in Buffalo with a 2-1 shootout win for the Predators. Tyler Ennis gave Buffalo a 1-0 lead heading into the third period, when Nashville’s Mike Ribeiro tied the game with less than five minutes to play. In the shootout, Filip Forsberg scored the game clinching goal in the fourth round to give Nashville the win. The last win for the Sabres over the Predators came back on December 3, 2011 in a 3-2 victory in Nashville.
Where they stand: Eleven games left in the year, and Buffalo is in 30th place by three points over the Arizona Coyotes. Buffalo and Arizona are even in terms of games played this season, and have two meetings later on in the month of March. Arizona is at home to play a struggling Pittsburgh Penguins team losers of four straight games. For Nashville, its decent from the top of the Central Division continues as they now sit behind the St. Louis Blues by two points, but only sit two points ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks.
Recent performance: Friday night seemed like a game in which the Sabres played better than the Devils, but in the end the results spoke otherwise. Buffalo ended up outshooting the Devils 29-27, but two goals from former Sabre Steve Bernier and another from Jordin Tootoo would be enough to lift New Jersey past Buffalo 3-1. Nashville was at home on Wednesday to take on one of the NHL’s hottest team in the Minnesota Wild. Defenseman Roman Josi got two goals in the second period to give Nashville a 2-1 lead, but Minnesota’s Charlie Coyle scored his second goal of the game with less than seven minutes to play in the third. Just 22-seconds into overtime, Wild defenseman Matt Dumba slapped on past Pekka Rinne to beat the Predators.
Buffalo notes: For the first time in over a month on Friday, the Sabres were able to outshoot the opposition in a game. Also for the first time in over two months, Buffalo had a positive Corsi-rating (possession) with a plus-two against the Devils. Buffalo is trying to put more pucks towards the net, and trying to create more chances to score. Anders Lindback has been a stable backbone for the Sabres in net since the NHL Trade Deadline, but Lindback had a rough night against New Jersey giving up three goals on 27 shots. It is expected that Matt Hackett will get the start against Nashville, giving Lindback a rest for the first time since February 28.
Nashville notes: Nashville has been on a huge slump over the past 10 games, going 2-7-1 in that span. Injuries have been a factor for pat of the season, and one of its superstar forwards remains sidelined. James Neal has missed the past there games with an upper-body injury, and could sit out once again against the Sabres. Fourth line depth-role player Eric Nystrom has been out since March 6 with a lower-body injury, and he may be out once again as well. Pekka Rinne has struggled in the past stretch of games, which has not been good for a Predators team who relies on Rinne heavily. Rinne has only put up a .901 save-percentage and a 2.60 goals-against average, which is below average for the Finnish goaltender. Rinne will look to rebound against the Sabres on Saturday as he will be in net to face Buffalo.
Conclusion: Buffalo continues to try and climb its way out of the basement of the NHL standings, while Nashville needs to bounce back and grab a win from the Sabres. Opening face-off is slated for 8pm, and the game can be seen on MSG Network.