Minnesota Wild @ Buffalo Sabres
6:00 PM Central, Key Bank Center, Buffalo, New York
TV: Fox Sports-North, Fox Sports-WI
Radio: KFAN 100.3 and affiliates
The Wild arrive in Buffalo on the heels their first road win of the season in Boston, with a commanding victory over the Bruins and their depleted goaltending corps. The 5-goal outburst was featured across many headlines, but overshadowed the even bigger defensive effort of the team to earn Devan Dubnyk his first shutout of the season. The Wild played suffocating defense and were perfect on the penalty kill to keep the Bruins off the score sheet. The Sabres are coming off a loss to the Flyers in Philadelphia and have come out of the gates to a 1-2-2 start. The Wild are tied for the lead in the Central Division and 2nd place in the Western Conference with 9 points while the Sabres are tied with the Hurricanes in the cellar of the Eastern conference with 4 points.
Both teams enter tonight looking for quicker starts. The Wild have just scored just twice in the 1st period on the season and the Sabres have 3 tallies in the first frame. Both teams have gotten better as the game has worn on, but the Wild currently have the most 2nd period goals in the league with 15. The Sabres have 14 total goals on the season, with one less game played.
Injuries have had a significant impact on the early season for the Sabres and will continue to for tonights game. Top forwards Jack Eichel and Evander Kane have combined to play just one game with Eichel injuring himself just before the season started and Kane suffering multiple fractured ribs while crashing into the boards. This has certainly contributed to the slow start for the Buffalo Sabres offense and will continue to impact the team for several weeks until both players return. On the Minnesota side, Jared Spurgeon and Erik Haula continue to improve, but neither will play tonight in Buffalo. Rumors are that both may return Saturday at home against Dallas.
Tonight features a matchup of a high-powered Buffalo powerplay versus the shutdown penalty kill of Minnesota. The Sabres are 6-for-25 on the man advantage which is good for 24% and accounts for 43% of their total goals on the season. The Wild sport the second-best penalty kill in the league, still having allowed just one shorthanded goal to Auston Matthews in 20 tries, good for 95.2%. On the flip side, both teams are looking for a boost with the Wild running their 11.5% power play against the Sabres 77.8% kill. It will be a good opportunity for the Wild to start figuring out their power play, and they would also be wise to stay out of the box themselves.
Backup Netminders continue
Anders Nilsson will get the nod in the Buffalo goal with Robin Lehner ill and struggling early on. Nilsson has just 1 start on the season allowing 3 goals in a shootout loss. This continues the trend of the Wild facing opponent backup goaltending, which they were able to take advantage of against Boston. The Wild are currently tied for the lead with 24 goals scored on the season and tonight will be a good opportunity to continue to build on that success.