|4:00 PM PT5:00 PM MT6:00 PM CT7:00 PM ET0:00 GMT8:00 5:00 PM MST7:00 PM EST4:00 UAE (+1)19:00 ETNaN:� BRT, February 5, 2019
KeyBank Center, Buffalo, New York Attendance: 16,847
Sabres face crunch time as Wild come to town
Minnesota Wild at Buffalo Sabres
- Buffalo beat Minnesota, 3-2, when these teams first met this season on November 17, but Minnesota has gone 8-3-0 against Buffalo dating back to October 2013 -- the Wild have a +20 goal differential over those 11 games (41-21).
- The Wild lost to the Blackhawks, 4-3, in overtime on Saturday. They allowed two power-play goals for the third time this season, which is tied for the fewest such games in the NHL. However, all three have come since December 27 -- only two teams have done so more times over this span.
- The Sabres likewise lost to the Blackhawks last time out, 7-3. Those seven allowed goals tied their most in a game this season (also allowed seven on January 14). Since the New Year, Buffalo has gone 4-4 when scoring at least three goals, tied for the worst record in the NHL.
- Jack Eichel had two assists in his first game against the Wild this season, and has five points (2g, 3a) in as many career games against Minnesota. He scored the first goal of the game for the Sabres last time out. He has scored goals in 12 games this season, and this last one was only the third non multi-point game.
- Jason Zucker scored a first-period power-play goal last time out. This season, Zucker now has three points in the first period (2g, 1a). He has 11 points each in the second and third periods.
- Mikael Granlund assisted on Zucker's goal, notching his team-leading 31st assist of the season. The Wild started their season 11-3-1 in games when Granlund had an assist, but have since gone 2-4-2.
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As the Minnesota Wild and Buffalo Sabres prepare to wrap up their season series, the playoff hopes of the two clubs are trending in different directions.
The Wild will face the Sabres at Buffalo's KeyBank Center on Tuesday. The western New York stop is the first of three road games in four contests this week for Minnesota, which ends with meetings at the New Jersey Devils on Saturday and against the New York Islanders in Brooklyn on Sunday.
Minnesota has points in five of its last seven games (4-2-1) and slots into the first wild card spot ahead of the Vancouver Canucks. Even Saturday's 4-3 overtime loss to the Chicago Blackhawks left the Wild relishing the point earned after battling back late to send it to the 3-on-3 extra period.
"I wish we could've cashed in a lot more. The looks were definitely there," said Wild left wing Zach Parise, who has recorded 20 goals and 25 assists in 51 games.
Minnesota placed forward Pontus Aberg (lower body) on injured reserve on Sunday, and he could play as early as the Islanders game. The Wild also called up forwards Luke Kunin and Kyle Rau from AHL affiliate Iowa and sent down forward J.T. Brown and defenseman Nate Prosser on Monday.
Buffalo won the first meeting between the two teams in St. Paul on Nov. 17. The Sabres rallied from a 2-0 deficit in the first period to claim a 3-2 victory after Jason Pominville scored the game-winner with 90 seconds left, lifting the then-streaking club to its fifth of 10 straight wins.
However, times have changed since then, and the Eastern Conference team's game began to slip a bit as the NHL's calendar headed to 2019.
Buffalo was the top team in the NHL with a 3-2 shootout win in Detroit against the Red Wings on Nov. 24. The victory moved the Sabres to the top point spot in the league standings for the first time after the first week of the season since Oct. 23, 2008.
But part of December and most all of January have been cold and bitter to coach Phil Housley's squad. The team has won just five times in its last 17 matches, posting a 5-11-1 mark that booted Buffalo outside both the top three in the division and the wild card spots.
In fact, the Sabres' 4-7-0 January places them in the awful position as the first team out of the current playoff standings, tied with Carolina with 56 points but having a game in hand over the surprising young Hurricanes.
Buffalo's last two games have showcased the team's inconsistency. Goalie Linus Ullmark allowed just Jamie Benn's goal on the Dallas Stars' 27 shots in a 1-0 loss last Wednesday. Yet the defense and Carter Hutton yielded four goals on Chicago's first 22 shots in a 7-3 blowout home loss two nights later.
Back in his hometown of Buffalo, Chicago's Patrick Kane torched the Sabres for two goals and two assists, eclipsing the 900-point threshold for his career. His four-point night deprived Buffalo of valuable home points.
"The learning experiences are far over now," Buffalo captain Jack Eichel said. "We're 50-some-odd games into the season. Mistakes are costing us points, and that's points in the standings that we can't lose."
--Field Level Media
Updated February 4, 2019