The task doesn't get any easier for the Buffalo Sabres
on Wednesday night in the Windy City, when they come into a game against the Chicago Blackhawks
(7:30 p.m., NBCSP) with a franchise-worst nine-game road losing skid.
It will also be the second straight opponent that finds itself right in the mix among the best teams in the Western Conference. The Blackhawks will be looking to leapfrog the idle second-place St. Louis Blues
and first-place Detroit Red Wings
in the Central Division -- after the Wings did the same to the idle Hawks on Tuesday by winning a shootout in Dallas.
The lead changes in the Central Division and West standings are happening on a nightly basis again because there are a host of good teams battling it out. Over in the Eastern Conference, it's tight at the top but the Sabres aren't anywhere near that fight.
They're more concerned about sitting fourth in the Northeast and 11th in the East with 43 points -- seven back of the eighth playoff spot after getting blown out 5-0 Monday in Detroit.
"We're playing a dangerous team tonight," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville
said after the Hawks' optional morning skate. "They're going to be ready and they're a desperate team. They've got a lot of ability. We'll have to make sure we check well and take care of that part of our game."
In terms of skill level and ability, Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff
could say the same thing of his Sabres' need to play the Hawks -- who are 17-5-4 at the United Center this season, including three straight wins on their home ice.
Ruff said Monday's blowout loss in Detroit might not have been entirely indicative of the effort the Sabres put into it, but rather the result of each mistake they made in an otherwise solid first period leading to three goals before the horn sounded.
"I've seen a lot worse games," Ruff told Sabres.com at Tuesday's practice in Chicago. "I've seen a lot worse games when it comes to work ethic and skating. I've got to guard against (getting emotional) when I'm standing behind that bench, to let my frustration show. It's not a time to yell and scream, to rant and rave. We've had some discussions in the room, but my frustration can't show. I've got to be the guy that leads them through this."
Buffalo also held an optional skate at the United Center and Ruff will be available to speak with the media Wednesday afternoon.
The feeling after the Sabres' workout was that backup goalie Jhonas Enroth
would get the start against Chicago. Buffalo also has a number of injured players who are still unable to play, which is another issue in their struggles.
Here's a look at how the Blackhawks and Sabres might line up on Wednesday night:
- Jochen Hecht
- Jason Pominville
- Derek Roy
- Nathan Gerbe
- Brad Boyes
- Ville Leino
- Paul Gaustad
- Patrick Kaleta
- Tyler Myers
- Jordan Leopold
- Marc-Andre Gragnani
- Jonathan Toews
- Patrick Kane
- Marcus Kruger
- Marian Hossa
- Dave Bolland
- Michael Frolik
- Jamal Mayers
- Andrew Brunette
- Brent Seabrook
- Niklas Hjalmarsson
- Steve Montador