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The overnight report: Red Wings-Sabres set-up: 4th meeting in 6 weeks equals a…budding rivalry?

The Detroit Red Wings face a familiar opponent tonight in the Buffalo Sabres (7 PM EST start on FSD/MSG B/Bell TV/97.1 FM): the teams have already met three times, with Detroit winning 5-4 in OT on December 1st, the Wings losing 2-1 on December 14th, and Detroit defeating Buffalo 2-1 on January 2nd.

The latest meeting takes place in Buffalo, which the Sabres returned to after splitting their "Parents' Trip," winning in Arizona and losing 2-1 in Colorado on Wednesday. Buffalo has won 4 of their past 6 games, but Wednesday's loss to the Avs was a "heartbreaker," as the Buffalo News's John Vogl noted:

Buffalo gave up goals at two crucial points of the third period, allowing Colorado to snatch a 2-1 victory in Pepsi Center. The Avalanche scored the winner with 31.7 seconds left and tied the game just 32 seconds after Buffalo killed a four-minute penalty.

“We deserved at least a point out of this one,” said hard-luck loser Robin Lehner, who made 33 saves in his most effective game with the Sabres. “We battled hard. I felt like I battled hard. It’s just tough not getting a win.”

The Sabres controlled much of the play through two periods while taking a 1-0 lead and 24-15 shot advantage. They looked like they’d take over the third, too, after killing a four-minute high-sticking penalty by Evander Kane taken with 15 minutes to go.

But after holding their breath during their kill, they never got to exhale. Alex Tanguay scored with the winded short-handed skaters still on the ice.

“We kill it off, we’re exhausted and they score,” center Ryan O’Reilly said after an unsuccessful return to his former home. “It’s just tough to get the momentum back.”

They never did. The Avs dominated the third period with an 18-5 shot edge. Lehner kept the Sabres afloat by stopping 16 of the opening 17. If the Sabres had gotten to the end of regulation, they might have let out the pent-up air and gathered themselves.

They didn’t get the chance. Francois Beauchemin’s point shot in the final minute hit Sabres defenseman Mark Pysyk at the top of the crease and went by Lehner, who slammed his stick to the ice.

The Buffalo News's Amy Moritz continued the narrative with a day-after missive...

[The] team returns to Buffalo to host the Detroit Red Wings on Friday (7 p.m., First Niagara Center) with a solid special teams foundation. The Sabres have power-play goals in three straight games and seven of their last 10. The penalty killing unit is on an 18-for-19 run.

The Sabres did not practice on Thursday, arriving back in Buffalo in the early morning after dropping the heartbreaker to the Avs.

The scoring started with another power-play tally for the Sabres – their fourth in their last three games. It was Evander Kane who struck in the second period to give the Sabres the 1-0 lead but the highlight was the work of the five-man unit. Jamie McGinn passed to Rasmus Ristolainen at the point. Ristolainen moved the puck to Ryan O’Reilly, who hit Jack Eichel with a quick pass in the slot. Eichel passed to Kane, who had a quick wrist shot for the goal.

On Thursday morning, Buffalo’s power play ranked seventh in the NHL, clicking at 20.8 percent.

“We’re getting good zone time,” Kane said. “We’re getting lots of opportunities and even when we don’t score on the power play it seems that we’re generating quite a bit. The power play has been for us as of late and that’s going to be a key moving forward here.”

The penalty kill has been a key for the Sabres as well, although potential momentum gained from killing off a four-minute high sticking call against Kane in the third against the Avs turned disastrous instead. The Sabres killed off the double minor, holding Colorado to just four shots over those four minutes.

Good stuff. Until 32 seconds after the penalty expired when Alex Tanguay scored to tie the game, 1-1.

Of note from the Sabres website's Jourdon LaBarber's recap:

REINHART INJURED
Adding to the disappointment of the loss was the absence of rookie Sam Reinhart after a collision with Colorado's John Mitchell with 5:56 remaining in the second period. Reinhart left the game with an upper-body injury and did not return.

Bylsma did not have an update regarding a potential length for Reinhart's injury but said that he would undergo further evaluation when the team returns to Buffalo. Reinhart has 20 points (12+8) in 46 games this season.

...

SPECIAL TEAMS STAY STRONG
Despite the eventual outcome, the double minor against Kane in the third period proved to be yet another success story from Buffalo's red-hot penalty kill. The Sabres were 3-for-3 on the penalty kill for the night, extending their streak to five games without allowing a power-play goal (15-for-15).

Kane's goal, meanwhile, marked Buffalo's fourth power-play goal in its last three games. With Kane filling in for Reinhart on the team's top unit, all five Sabres on the ice touched the puck on the goal-scoring play.

Jamie McGinn got the ball rolling when he passed the puck to Rasmus Ristolainen at the point. Ristolainen moved the puck over to O'Reilly, who pushed a quick pass to Jack Eichel as he crossed through the slot. Eichel tapped the puck to Kane, who beat Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov with a sharp wrister between the pads.

"We're getting good zone time, we're getting lots of opportunities and even when we don’t score on the power play it seems like we're generating quite a bit," Kane said. "The power play's been big for us, that's going to be a key moving forward here before the break."

According to NHL.com's Rick Sadowski, the Sabres dressed the following lineup vs. Colorado. Whether Sam Reinhart will dress on Friday remains unclear:

SABRES

Evander Kane - Ryan O'Reilly - Sam Reinhart

Philip Varone - Jack Eichel - Jamie McGinn

Marcus Foligno - Johan Larsson - Brian Gionta

Matt Moulson - Tim Schaller - David Legwand

Zach Bogosian - Rasmus Ristolainen

Josh Gorges - Cody Franson

Mike Weber - Mark Pysyk

Robin Lehner

Chad Johnson

Injured: Nicolas Deslauriers (lower body), Tyler Ennis (upper body), Zemgus Girgensons (upper body), Cody McCormick (blood clot)

And here are NHL.com's highlights for your pre-scouting purposes. If you want to read the AP's Avs-Sabres recap or NHL.com's Avs-Sabres recap, enjoy, but I didn't want to beat a dead horse:

NHL.com's Michael LoRe penned a balanced game preview:

Season series: The Detroit Red Wings have won two of three games against the Buffalo Sabres. Brad Richards scored the only goal in the shootout in a 5-4 win Dec. 1, 2015 and Tomas Tatar scored with 2:50 left in the third period in a 4-3 win on Jan. 2. Ryan O'Reilly and Johan Larsson scored 1:01 apart in the third period to help Buffalo to a 2-1 win Dec. 14. Defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen has five assists for the Sabres. Forwards Justin Abdelkader, Tatar and Richards have three goals apiece for the Red Wings.

Red Wings team scope: Richards won't play because he will be attending his grandfather's funeral. "Unfortunate, for sure," coach Jeff Blashill told the team website. "Those are things that unfortunately you have to go through in life. So it's good he's going to get a chance to be with his family." Richards is expected to be back against the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday at Joe Louis Arena. Brendan Smith didn't practice Thursday because of a maintenance day, but Blashill expects the defenseman to play Friday. "It's that time of the year they get bumps and bruises," Blashill said. "He needed a day to rest." Tatar, who was a late scratch Wednesday because of illness, practiced Thursday and is likely to play against the Sabres. Petr Mrazek will start in goal.

Sabres team scope: Buffalo was off Thursday after losing 2-1 at the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday. Right wing Sam Reinhart sustained an upper-body injury in the second period of the loss at Colorado when he collided with Avalanche forward John Mitchell; he did not return. Defenseman Josh Gorges, who missed two games with an upper-body injury, returned against Colorado and skated with Mark Pysyk; Jake McCabe and Carlo Colaiacovo were scratched. "It pushes you to be better and be ready to compete and play knowing that we have guys that can come in and do the job," Gorges told the Buffalo News. "If you're not willing to go out there and do what's asked of you, there's guys that can come in and do it and take your job."

The AP posted a stats-filled Wings-Sabres preview, too:

Coming off consecutive 2-1 losses to Philadelphia - in a shootout - and St. Louis, the Red Wings have scored more than two goals twice in the last 11, highlighted by a 4-3 win at Buffalo on Jan. 2.

...

Despite a 2-1 home loss to the Sabres (19-24-4) on Dec. 14, Detroit has scored nine regulation goals while going 2-1-0 against them this season. In the midst of a 6-0-1 stretch at Buffalo, the Red Wings have averaged 3.6 goals while winning 28 times and earning at least one point in all but three of the last 34 meetings.

Tomas Tatar has seven goals and two assists in the last seven games against Buffalo, but it's uncertain if he'll be available after being scratched Wednesday because of the flu. Detroit also announced veteran defenseman Niklas Kronwall, a key figure on its power play, could miss up to a month after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery this week.

The Sabres fell 2-1 at Colorado on Wednesday, their second defeat in six games since losing a season-high six in a row. Also near the bottom of the league averaging 2.28 goals, Buffalo has scored 23 times in those 12 games but has converted 26.5 percent (9 of 34) of its power-play chances in the last 10.

Evander Kane scored with the man-advantage but the Avalanche rallied for two goals in the third period.

...

Kane has two goals with three assists in the last six games. He scored twice in a 5-4 shootout loss at Detroit on Dec. 1, but hasn't recorded a point in the two meetings since.

Buffalo has allowed 12 goals during its 4-2-0 stretch and killed all 15 penalties in the last five contests.

Detroit's Petr Mrazek has made three straight starts, and owns a 1.15 goals-against average in his last six. He's posted a 2.96 GAA while starting all three against the Sabres this season.

The Red Wings switched up their forward lines on Thursday, as MLive's Ansar Khan noted...

Justin Abdelkader-Henrik Zetterberg-Dylan Larkin

Darren Helm-Pavel Datsyuk-Gustav Nyquist

Tomas Jurco-Riley Sheahan-Tomas Tatar

Joakim Andersson-Luke Glendening-Teemu Pulkkinen

We learned that the Wings will play without Brad Richards' services Friday as his grandfather passed away; Tomas Tatar is recovering from "the flu," and Brendan Smith missed practice with "soreness," which may or may not linger into Friday, so the Wings' lineup remains in flux.

In any case, Petr Mrazek will start for the Wings with yet another set of forward lines in front of him, and Blashill explained his reasoning for his continued tweaking to the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness:

“There’s chemistry involved in success with lines,” Blashill said after practice Thursday at Joe Louis Arena. “But when you’re not scoring sometimes you’ve got to keep looking for answers. You don’t want to be in a constant search for answers. For me it has to make sense, it can’t just be a jumbled mess just to try it.

“I think the other thing is when you construct a line, it’s easy to think just put these three skilled players together and they’ll be great,” Blashill added. “As we see every night and it’s been well-documented in the NHL you have to go to the net and have to have net presence, so you have to have someone on the line that excels at that. It’s not that other guys on the line aren’t willing to but it’s nice to have somebody on the line that excels at that.”

Dylan Larkin will be reunited with Henrik Zetterberg and Justin Abdelkader, while Pavel Datsyuk will center Darren Helm and Gustav Nyquist.

“You have to have a good mix of speed and skill,” Blashill said. “If you have a real skilled line that’s not fast enough in today’s NHL they get tracked down from behind, so there is lots that goes into the combinations. I don’t want it to be constant where we’re not developing chemistry because we’re switching them.”

Helm has gone 17 games without a goal. He has four assists in that span.

“Pav and Helmer have been together lots,” Blashill said. “Pav likes playing with Helmer, Helmer does a lot of the work in terms of getting the puck. Larkin, Z and Abby had great success through lots of the year. We think Nyquie and Tats are real good players whichever line they’re on, so we’ll see if this group works.”

Gustav Nyquist gave his approval to playing alongside Pavel Datsyuk--unsurprisingly--as noted by MLive's Khan...

Nyquist has just one goal in 13 games. He's registered 23 shots during this stretch, but seven came in one game – a 4-3 win at Buffalo on Jan. 2.

"I had a couple chances (Wednesday) where I missed the net," Nyquist said. "First shift of the game I get one right in the slot and I blasted it right over, and then in the third I have a two-on-one, shoot high again. Just got to hit the net and find a way to score goals. I think chances are there."

...

Nyquist doesn't believe frustration is setting in on the team.

"We talked about it today, that if we play the way that we did (Wednesday) that we'll win a lot of games," Nyquist said. "We created a lot of chances. I think we probably out-chanced them by a good margin. (Petr) Mrazek was great in net again."

They don't want to sacrifice defense by opening up too much offensively.

"We've talked lots about trying to add reward without added risk," Blashill said. "Certainly we could create a situation where we probably could generate some more, but we'd give up a lot more and it's almost impossible to win in this league that way."

And Nyquist continued while speaking with the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan...

Nyquist has primarily played with Zetterberg, so playing with Datsyuk is a new twist.

“They’re similar, both great players,” Nyquist said. “You want them to have the puck as much as possible. Playing with them, you try and get open because you have to be ready for a pass. It can come at any time.”

Riley Sheahan was between Tatar and Tomas Jurco, while Luke Glendening centered the fourth line between Joakim Andersson and Teemu Pulkkinen.

“When you’re not scoring you have to keep looking for answers,” Blashill said.

The Red Wings felt they played well enough against St. Louis in Wednesday’s 2-1 loss that goals will be coming soon. The Red Wings outshot the Blues 30-20.

“We have a group in here that’s been around, they understand process and how important it is,” Blashill said. “They police themselves that way. We’ve got a young team but great veteran leadership. We played a good game (Wednesday). We have to find a way to score a little bit more. Let’s just keep plugging away and keep getting better at it.”

And Nyquist and Tatar told the Windsor Star's Bob Duff that they agree with their coach's post-Blues-game assessment of the team's "process" as on-track:

“No, I think we talked about it today, if we play that way that we did yesterday that we’ll win a lot of games,” Detroit forward Gustav Nyquist said. “I thought we played good. We created a lot of chances. I think we probably out-chanced them by a good margin. Even (Petr) Mrazek was great in net again.”

The thing is, right now the Wings look a lot like a 17-year-old with acne in search of a prom date. No matter how hard they try, they just can’t score.

“I think we had a lot of chances to score that we couldn’t score on, so we’ve just got to find a way, keep plugging away,” Nyquist said.

Since returning home from a 5-1 road trip, the Wings have been limited to one goal in consecutive home-losses to the Philadelphia Flyers and St. Louis Blues. But while the Blues got a goal in Wednesday’s win that banked in off the hockey pants of forward Ty Rattie, the Wings struggle to even hit the net. Even the Magic Man, Pavel Datsyuk missed a wide-open net in Detroit’s latest defeat.

“Yeah, I would say I think that Pavel would score that 999 times out of a thousand,” Nyquist said. “But right now the puck’s just not going in for the team. It’s not just one player; it’s a lot of players that’s not scoring right now. That’s not a good formula, so we’ve all got to bear down and find a way to score.

“I thought I had a couple chances yesterday where I missed the net. First shift of the game I get one right in the slot and I blasted it right over, and then in the third I have a two on one, shoot high again, you know, so I’ve just got to hit the net and find a way to score goals. I think the chances are there, we’ve just got to find that net.”

The Detroit News's Kulfan duly noted that all this conversation is swell and all...

The Red Wings have scored more than two goals only twice in the last 11 games and have scored 20 goals total in that span.

Five times in those last 11 the Red Wings have scored one single goal. They have scored more than two goals in only 20 of the 46 games this season.

It doesn’t get much better when ranked against everyone else in the NHL.

The Red Wings have 111 goals, which ranks them 22nd. Their 2.41 goals-for average puts them 23rd.

But the WIngs, even when confronted about their special teams play, insist that "the process" is going to carry the day:

The Red Wings ranked 15th on the power play with an 18.1 percent success rate, smack in the middle of the league rankings.

“When you have a man-advantage you have to put points on the board,” defenseman Brendan Smith said, and the Red Wings did Wednesday, their only goal against the Blues a Henrik Zetterberg power-play goal. “That’s something that will give us a spark. It’s helped us in the past. There’s puck luck, but you have to create that by getting more shots.”

In the multimedia department: The Free Press's Helene St. James posted a clip of coach Blashill's practice remarks...

And Fox 2 posted an 11:52 clip of Jeff Blashill and Gustav Nyquist's off-day comments. This one's a little quiet, so you'll have to turn your speakers up:

 

Red Wings notebooks and also of Red Wings-related note: First, of charitable note, Saturday's home game against the Anaheim Ducks will involve a food donation and cash donation collection for Gleaners' Food Bank:

In the prospect department, Sportsnet will be airing a game between Adam Marsh's Saint John Sea Dogs and Evgeny Svechnikov's Cape Breton Screaming Eagles on Friday night;

And AWood40 posted a "flashback" highlight of, well, game 4 of the 2013 2nd-round playoff series between the Wings and Ducks:

Filed in: | The Malik Report | Permalink
 

Comments

PierreC's avatar

Gustav Nyquist gave his approval to playing alongside Pavel Datsyuk—unsurprisingly—as noted by MLive’s Khan…

What ? Since when a player has to give his approval to play with someone ?...

...gave his approval to play with Dats ???

come on…

Posted by PierreC from Montreal, Canada on 01/22/16 at 08:58 AM ET

Avatar

Posted by PierreC from Montreal, Canada on 01/22/16 at 07:58 AM ET

It’s just a description of the article…

Posted by Garth on 01/22/16 at 10:37 AM ET

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About The Malik Report

The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.

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