MINNESOTA WILD (18-19-5, 41 PTS) at BUFFALO SABRES (14-27-3, 31 PTS)
Thursday January 15, 2015
First Niagara Center
7:00 PM, TV- MSG-B, FS-N, FS-WI
Buffalo, NY – Minnesota makes it’s only appearance in Buffalo this season Thursday to play the slumping Sabres. The Wild are (2-6-2) in their last 10 games played and caught in a six game slide. To add injury to insult they will be without all-star defenseman Ryan Suter, who was suspended two games this week by the NHL’s Department of Player Safety. Suter elbowed Pittsburgh forward Steve Downie in Tuesday night’s loss to the Penguins. Suter maintains the elbow was unintentional and has reached out to Downie to apologize.
After the 7-2 drubbing by Pittsburgh, Wild teammates called a player’s only meeting. “Our effort was there? We lost 7-2,” captain Zach Parise said. “I don’t think there was a very good effort, no. You give up seven goals in a game, I’m not going to come out saying we had good effort.”
Wild coach Mike Yeo has been on the hot seat before. Last season there were rumors flying around that he would be dismissed but the Wild pushed on, made the playoffs and upset the Colorado Avalanche in the first round. Minnesota is last in the Central division and 12th overall in the Western conference. The biggest problem for the team is offensive production. With all the firepower they possess they simply haven’t scored enough goals (113, 23rd in the NHL).
The team added former Sabres forward Thomas Vanek in the off season and he has not produced as hoped. Although he is 3rd in points (7-18-25), just 7 goals through 42 games is less than what they were expecting. Another former Sabres forward Jason Pominville has 9 goals in the same amount of games played (9-24-33). On Wednesday the Wild acquired Phoenix Arizona back-up net-minder Devan Dubnyk (9-5-2) in a trade to help shore up a defeated and injury plagued goaltending tandem.
The Sabres will go with Jhonas Enroth (11-15-2) in goal who has not played in a week. Chris Stewart is expected to return after missing Tuesday night’s loss versus Detroit with flu symptoms. Nikita Zadorov (healthy scratch last 2) will be back in the lineup as well.
Tyler Ennis who leads Buffalo in scoring has just one goal in his last 16 games. As a team the Sabres have scored just nine times in their last 8 outings. In an effort to improve on the power play defenseman Tyler Myers has been moved from the blueline to in front of opposing goalies. Similar to the way the Boston Bruins used Zdeno Chara in the past. Buffalo worked on the scenario on Wednesday at practice.
Frank Wolf ~ @wolf3328