SHARKS (40-12-9) at SABRES (32-18-9)
San Jose 7-2-1; Buffalo 2-6-2
This is the second of two meetings. On Jan. 23, Joe Pavelski
's second goal broke a tie midway through the third period and Evgeni Nabokov made 38 saves to lead the Sharks to a 5-2 home win. Jed Ortmeyer scored twice and Dany Heatley also had a goal for San Jose, which won for the 16th time in 19 games despite being outshot 40-24.
The Sharks are roaring, the Sabres are sinking, and after tonight, both teams will be off as the Olympic break begins. But a combined 13 players will continue to be in action as they represent their respective countries in Vancouver. San Jose has eight Olympians playing for five nations, and Buffalo has five Olympians from five different countries.
In their last game before the Olympic break, the Sharks are wrapping up a six-game road trip that began Feb. 4. They have defeated the Blues (4-2), Predators (4-3), Maple Leafs (3-2) and Red Wings (3-2, SO), and lost to Columbus (3-0).
In Thursday's game at Detroit, Nabokov made a career-high 50 saves in 65 minutes and three more in the shootout before Patrick Marleau
scored the game-deciding shootout goal to beat Detroit.
"It definitely does (feel good)," Marleau said. "It's always hard coming in here (Joe Louis Arena), especially when you've played a game the night before."
"We got two points, that's what counts," Nabokov said after winning his 11th consecutive road decision. "Two points is two points. I don't care who they're against."
This is their final game before the Olympic break. On Thursday, Buffalo lost 4-3 in overtime to the Hurricanes in Carolina.
After leading the Northeast Division for much of the season, the Sabres find themselves one point behind Ottawa after going on a 2-6-2 slide.
"I guess that's the way it goes when you're not going good and nothing really goes your way," goalie Ryan Miller
said. "It's not clicking right now."
scored two goals and Jochen Hecht
added one for Buffalo, which has lost six straight for the first time since an 0-5-5 stretch in 2007-08.
"We're not going to coast into the playoffs," Miller said. "If we keep up this pace, we're not even going to make the playoffs. This is getting ridiculous."
For the Sharks, Patrick Marleau
has 9 goals and 9 assists in 14 games, Ryane Clowe
has 2 goals and an assist in four games, Heatley has 3 goals and 8 assists in eight games, Joe Thornton
has 3 goals and 5 assists in six games and Devin Setoguchi has 2 goals and 4 assists in five games. … For the Sabres, Jason Pominville
has 4 goals and 9 assists in 13 games.
For the Sharks, Manny Malhotra (undisclosed) and Marc-Edouard Vlasic
(lower-body) are day-to-day. … For the Sabres, Patrick Kaleta
(bruised foot) is day-to-day.
Pominville enters the game as Buffalo’s active leader in consecutive games played at 310 -- the seventh-longest active streak in the NHL. … Since Lindy Ruff was named Buffalo's head coach on July 21, 1997, there have been 151 coaching changes in the NHL. … Buffalo defenseman Tyler Myers
leads all NHL rookies with 100 blocked shots. … The Sabres (20-0-0) are one of two undefeated teams when leading after two periods. … On Thursday, Nabokov set an NHL record for the longest single-season road winning streak with 11 games. He shared the old mark of 10 with Boston's Gerry Cheevers (1971-72) and Detroit's Chris Osgood (2005-06).
"I've been [ticked] off for weeks, months. I don't think we've been playing well enough for a long time. We've been getting away with it. I don't know. We just need to get our act together and it could have started tonight. But we got rattled." -- Miller to the Buffalo News after Thursday's overtime loss against Carolina.