West Coast Posts – Part 2 – Game Preview: Buffalo Sabres @ Phoenix Coyotes
The Buffalo Sabres (29-11-6) kick off their West Coast trip of 5 games in 8 days against the Phoenix Coyotes (28-16-5). The Sabres lead the series 1-0. It is unusual that the Sabres play a West Coast opponent twice but this game is one of their two “at large” games. Basically, these “at large” games are two games in the season where the Sabres play random West Conference opponents. For example, last season’s “at large” games were against the Anaheim Ducks and Detroit Red Wings.
Phoenix’s last game was a 6-4 win against the Minnesota Wild on Saturday night. The Coyotes have won their last two straight games and this win against Minnesota brings necessary points for the Yotes. The Coyotes had a total of 33 shots in a game that saw Petr Prucha score 2 goals on 4 shots and other goals came from Shane Doan, Owen Nolan and Radim Vrbata. Goalie Ilya Bryzgalov made 18 saves on 22 shots. Watch for the Coyotes to improve their streak to 3 wins tonight against a possibly fatigued Sabres.
The Sabres come into tonight’s game after a grueling shootout loss to the New York Islanders. John Tavares, who likes to score against Buffalo, got his 17th goal 5 minutes into the game. Sean Bergenheim netted his fifth goal to make the game 2-0. Mike Grier (9) and Drew Stafford (12) answered the call and tied the game. 8 rounds of shootout later and the Islanders came away with 2 points off of the stick of Trent Hunter. Despite this loss the Sabres have yet to lose a game in regulation in the month of January.
Just like the last game preview, I’m not going to do the hots and nots but I will highlight who is playing well and what is working for each team.
Here we go, kids.
Okay, so, the Sabres. Well, obviously we’ve shown some pretty good resilience. The fact that we have come out of every game this month with points is a pretty remarkable feat. Their last loss in regulation came at the hands of the Washington Capitals in a 5-2 loss. Drew Stafford has been playing pretty well lately. He scored a goal last game and netted a goal in the skills competition (also know as the shootout). Oh and he is tied for the team lead in goals with Thomas “The Man-ek” Vanek. This is good news for the Sabres because it was just a matter of time before Stafford stepped and started scoring goals. Plus, he’s a metal head and that is pretty cool. According to Left Wing Lock, it is probably that Miller will get the start tonight. If so that means that Patty Lalime will most likely get the start tomorrow night against the woeful Ducks. Word.
Now, the howling Coyotes. The player that should be watched tonight is definitely Petr Prucha. He scored two goals last game and is finally starting to pick up his scoring pace after amidst questions of his productivity. Watch for him to be all sorts of trouble tonight in and around the crease. When a player is on a hot streak, usually that player will try to crash the net as much as possible because that’s how goals happen (See: Franzen, Johan circa 2008). Goalie Ilya Bryzgalov is confirmed in net tonight. And that is not good news for the Sabres. Let me put it into context for ya: If Miller is the standout goaltender that has played the Sabres into 2nd place in the east then Bryzgalov is the mini version of Miller who has played the Coyotes to 2nd in the Pacific Division. He’s been playing pretty well this season and has finally began taking over games with his play. The Sabres need to put quality shots on net the entire night to crack him.
The game is on at 7:00 on MSG.
See you tomorrow for more West Coast Posts!
Oh, and ironically I was listening to a band called Phoenix while I wrote this preview. They’re really good.