Kukla's Korner Hockey
by @DaveDavisHockey on 11/17/10 at 04:52 PM ET
If you think the Sabres aren’t scoring enough goals, well, don’t blame the defense. Buffalo’s blueliners have racked up 13 goals in 19 games. Tonight’s opponent, the high flying Washington Capitals, ‘only’ have 12 from their defensemen.
Sure, the offensive contributions of Jordan Leopold, Steve Montador (yep, really) and Tyler Myers have been a tonic for this team as it tries to climb out of its self-dug hole. Buffalo has gone to overtime in five straight games and has earned 9 of 10 possible points. But let’s not kid ourselves - the Sabres will have to cut down on mistakes in their own zone if they’re serious about being contenders again.
A huge goal by Myers Monday night capped off a heart-stopping overtime stanza against Vancouver. It also made a few people forget about Buffalo’s defensive lapses that caused the Canucks to erase a two-goal third period deficit to force said overtime in the first place.
As interesting as it might be that Leopold is on pace for 17 goals and 56 points, even with his heavy dose of power play minutes this season it wouldn’t be wrong to expect him to come back to Earth a bit. Myers had plenty of man-advantage time last season and ended up with 48 points.
What really raises the red flag with this team defensively is that you’re not really sure, when it gets to crunch time, which two guys the Sabres can count on as a shutdown pair.
Coach Lindy Ruff has tried teaming Myers with seemingly every d-man on the roster, but he hasn’t found the right fit yet. Shaone Morrisonn was Ruff’s initial choice to fill that role, but he’s looked slow and at -8 in 13 games hasn’t worked out so far.
No team coached by Ruff has ever had more than 36 goals in a season scored by its defensemen. This group is on pace for 56. But with everything on the line later this season when games really count, having players on the back end with a propensity for scoring won’t mask the inability of such a group to play sound defensively.
The Sabres’ opposition tonight at the Verizon Center is certainly well aware of that.
* * * * *
Nathan Gerbe will return to action tonight even though his jaw fracture hasn’t fully healed. He’ll be wearing a face shield. Gerbe takes the place of Patrick Kaleta, who was injured Monday against Vancouver.
Ryan Miller will start in goal.
Captain Craig Rivet will again be a healthy scratch.
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