GAME: Buffalo Sabres (12-15-2-1) at Minnesota Wild (10-14-5-0).
TIME: Saturday, 8 p.m. EST.
The Minnesota Wild would have problems putting the puck in a soccer goal
In search of a solution for their offensive ineptitude, the Wild host the
struggling Buffalo Sabres.
Coming off a trip to the Western Conference finals last season, the Wild
were expected to contend with Colorado, Detroit and Vancouver, among others,
for a spot in the Stanley Cup finals.
Stuck four games below .500 through 29 games, the Wild are in 13th place in
the conference despite allowing just 62 goals, third-fewest in the West. While
it's still relatively early, the Wild need to figure out how to generate more
offense before they fall too far out of the race for a playoff spot.
Minnesota has won just two of its last 10 games (2-6-2), scoring just 11
goals in that span. The Wild have not scored more than two goals since a 6-2
victory over Pittsburgh on Nov. 19.
"We're in the doghouse, everybody, in terms of scoring," said Minnesota
forward Marian Gaborik, who is one of the biggest culprits, registering just
three goals and three assists in 17 games after leading the Wild with 30 goals
and 65 points in 81 games last season.
Despite his team losing 1-0 to Toronto on Thursday, Minnesota coach Jacques
Lemaire is doing his best to keep a positive frame of mind.
"We played probably our best game tonight," Lemaire said. "We got a lot
of chances, we played solid defensively, and the guys skated well."
The Wild will be facing the perfect opponent as the search for offense
continues. The Sabres have dropped five of six, including getting swept four
straight on their recent homestand. Buffalo has allowed 83 goals, fourth-most
in the Eastern Conference.
"When you're not going good, and you miss those opportunities, they come
back to haunt you," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said after the Sabres fell 3-1 to
the New York Rangers on Friday. "We played very well at home before this
stretch, and to lose four in a row is very disappointing."'
Buffalo captain James Patrick is trying to stay upbeat.
"All we can do is try to move forward," Patrick said. "We have to learn
from the mistakes that we made these last four games."
Goalie Mika Noronen made 31 saves for Buffalo after missing Wednesday's game
against Detroit because of a cut on his neck sustained during practice. The
wound required 17 stitches to close.