After their journey to the Eastern U.S., the Ducks are back to open a three-game homestand beginning tonight against the Buffalo Sabres. (7 p.m. PT, TV: Prime Ticket, Radio: AM 830). The Ducks come in with a 4-2-0 record, splitting their four-game trip with victories in Detroit and Columbus. The Sabres (5-0-1), meanwhile, are one of two teams remaining without a regulation loss this season. (The other is Colorado at 5-0-0).
This is the opener of a brief two-game season series between the Ducks and Sabres, which has seen Anaheim post a 15-18-5 all-time mark (8-10-1 at home). Adam Henrique paces active Ducks in career scoring vs. Buffalo with 20 points (6g/14a) and a +11 rating in 23 games. Henrique has five points (2g/3a) in his las six games vs. Buffalo, while Rickard Rakell has points in two straight (1g/1a) and five in his last five against the Sabres (3g/2a). These two clubs will meet again Sunday, Feb. 9 at KeyBank Center.
The Ducks are coming off what head coach Dallas Eakins says was their best game from a 5-on-5 standpoint. Though they lost 4-2 Monday afternoon in Boston, the Ducks gave the Bruins fits in the second period of a game that could've gone in Anaheim's favor had the club been able to bury a few more chances.
"I thought it was the best game we've played 5-on-5," said Eakins. "I thought we were moving. I was proud of the way we competed. That was a great measuring stick for us. That's an elite team, 60 minutes from being Stanley Cup champions. For us to be able to play with them at least 5-on-5 was encouraging. We need to play like that 5-on-5 every night offensively. We had lots of chances to score."
One thing they'll have to do tonight is limit their trips to the penalty box. The Sabres boast the No. 1 ranked power play in the NHL, converting on a league-best nine of 21 chances this season (42.9%). All five of Victor Olofsson's goals this season have come with the man advantage. Entering tonight's game, the former seventh-round pick of the 2014 NHL Draft leads rookies in goals, points (7) and shots (15). Through six games, the Sabres have gotten points from 17 different players and had 10 different players score at least one goal. Jack Eichel (nine points, 3g/6a), Rasmus Dahlin (eight points, 1g/7a), Olofsson (seven points, 5g/2a) and Sam Reinhart (six points, 3g/3a) have all averaged at least a point per game this season.
"I watched [Eichel] feather about four through [the slot]," Eakins said, on Buffalo's power play. "The one thing that's for sure is all those goals are usually coming through the slot area. Even though the shot ends up on the dot, it usually has to come through an area. If we dare take a penalty, we've got to have great sticks and clog that up so it's a forest of sticks and legs. He's just going to have to make an unbelievably dangerous pass to get it through us."