NHL: Sabres @ Coyotes Preview
Coyotes are seeking revenge for the poor showing earlier this season when the teams met in Buffalo. The Sabres were victorious after the infamous “butt-goal” where the puck landed in Mike Smith’s pants and he backed into the net, giving the Sabres the 2-1 win in OT.
Smith will not be in net for the Coyotes tonight, as coach Tippett has decided to stay with Thomas Greiss who put in a shutout performance the other night in the 3-0 victory over the Los Angeles Kings. The 28-year old German has been solid in net when given the chance and this will be Greiss’ first back-to-back starts. His record is 7-3-1 with a GAA of 2.00 and a .935 SV%.
The Sabres’ season is already one that the fans will want to forget. The team is last in the league with a measly 36 points and only 14 wins in 52 games. Ryan Miller has been playing his heart out in net, but the team in front of him is just not good enough. Look for the Sabres to make a couple of moves before the trade deadline to get some more draft picks. The team is in a rebuild phase, but that is no excuse for how poor they been so far. Coming into tonight’s game the Sabres are 2-4-4 in the last 10 games.
The Coyotes have been struggling for a while now, and are 4-5-1 in the last 10. Last week’s Canadian road trip did not turn out as planned as the Coyotes lost the first game against Calgary, then almost managed to lose to Edmonton despite having a 4-0 lead. The trip ended with the Yotes snagging a point in Vancouver. Tuesday’s game against the Los Angeles Kings was one of the better performances by the Coyotes all season. They played well for a full 60 minutes and controlled the game from start to finish.
Cody Hodgson leads the Sabres in points with 29 (14+15) in 42 games followed by Tyler Ennis with 25p (11+14) in 52 games. Ryan Miller is 13-20-3, with a 2.61 GAA and a .926 SV%.
Mike Ribeiro leads the Coyotes in points with 37 (13+24) in 53 games. Antoine Vermette is the leading goalscorer with 19 goals so far this season. Vermette has been the best offensive player for the Yotes the past two weeks and he got a hat trick in the game against Vancouver.
Keys to the Game for the Coyotes:
Keep the momentum going – If the Coyotes play as they did the other night against the Kings this should be an easy victory. Kings were playing back-to-back games but they are the best defensive team in the league, not something you can say about Buffalo. The Coyotes got three pucks past Jonathan Quick and tonight they’ll go up against his Team USA teammate Ryan Miller who will represent the USA in the Olympics in Sochi.
Special teams – The Coyotes special teams have been working well the last two weeks, with three shorthanded goals being scored. The power play with Oliver Ekman-Larsson at the point together with Keith Yandle has been effective (8th in the NHL 20.2%) and they need to continue to play well as the Sabres are still a hard-working team and you can’t take any team for granted in the NHL. Buffalo’s power play is ranked 26th (14.8%) and the Coyotes’ penalty kill is ranked 21st (79.8%).
Shoot – Only the Toronto Maple Leafs allows more shots per game than the Buffalo Sabres. With an average of 34 shots against, the Coyotes needs to pepper Miller with shots and stir up traffic in front of the Sabres goaltender. If they manage to get bodies to the net, good things will come.