SAN JOSE - Twice this season the Buffalo Sabres have erased a three-goal deficit in a comeback victory. The most recent instance was on Saturday, when they scored five unanswered goals to beat Columbus; the first was at home in February against the San Jose Sharks, who they'll meet tonight at SAP Center.
In both games, the Sabres showed the mental fortitude that has made them dangerous when playing from behind all season long. Even having lost eight of nine games and seeing their playoff odds diminish, Matt Moulson said their compete level in the last two periods on Saturday was the best it's been all season.
Video: PREVIEW: BUF at SJS (3/14/17)
The next step, Moulson said, is realizing what it was that made the Sabres successful late in those games and applying it for all three periods. Doing so could help them avoid a deficit in the first place against a Sharks team that enters tonight with a 7-2-1 record in its last 10 games.
"I think we did a good job of getting on the forecheck when we were successful in the game getting pucks turned over and getting pucks at the net," said Moulson, who scored a goal in the first meeting with San Jose. "They're an extremely skilled team. If you give them chances and power plays, they're going to eventually capitalize."
The Sabres will need to keep close tabs on forward Joe Pavelski and defenseman Brent Burns. Pavelski is the NHL's reigning First Star of the Week after scoring five goals and an assist in four games; Burns leads the League's defensemen with 70 points (27+43). The two connected for a power-play goal in their game in Buffalo.
"Brent Burns shoots the puck a lot, Joe Pavelski tips it a lot," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. "I learned that from last game quite a bit."
Bylsma had more to say when asked to elaborate on Burns, who leads the NHL with 264 shots on goal. He had four against the Sabres.
"He's a bit of a hybrid player," Bylsma said. "Defenseman, rover, forward, forechecking, power play … Trying to nail him down on the ice is a futile proposition for anybody. His shot's no different … He does it a ton of different ways.
"You've seen teams in the playoffs last year trying to take it away, and every time it comes back to him he's shooting the one-timer. Try to take the pass away to him, and he walks to the middle and moves down into the slot and gets a shot there. He's maybe one of the most dynamic movers and players in our game in that regard."
The Sabres are coming off a game in which they scored twice on the power play, on which they're 8-for-22 (36 percent) in their six games. Buffalo leads the entire NHL in power-play efficiency at 23.7 percent, which is one of the reasons they always believe they're in games.
"That's the mentality that we want to have coming over the boards," Bylsma said. "It's not just the first unit, the second unit has stepped in there at times with goals for our team as well. That's what you need it to do, is step in and score some goals, score big goals for you, get you back into games, get you on top in games and score at big times."
Robin Lehner, coming off of what Bylsma said might have been his best performance of the season in two periods of relief on Saturday, will start in net for the Sabres. He'll be opposed by Martin Jones for the Sharks.
Coverage on Tuesday begins at 10 p.m. with the Tops Pregame Show on MSG-B, or you can listen live on WGR 550. The puck drops between the Sabres and Sharks at 10:30.
Bylsma said that the lineup will look the same as it did on Saturday, meaning recent recall Hudson Fasching will not play. Here's how the lines are expected to look:
9 Evander Kane - 90 Ryan O'Reilly - 12 Brian Gionta
26 Matt Moulson - 15 Jack Eichel - 23 Sam Reinhart
82 Marcus Foligno - 28 Zemgus Girgensons - 56 Justin Bailey
44 Nicolas Deslauriers - 71 Evan Rodrigues - 63 Tyler Ennis
29 Jake McCabe - 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
41 Justin Falk - 47 Zach Bogosian
4 Josh Gorges - 6 Cody Franson
40 Robin Lehner
31 Anders Nilsson