DALLAS – All things considered, Buffalo Sabres coach Dan Bylsma thought his team did a good job slowing down the Dallas Stars in their matchup in Buffalo on Tuesday, saying afterward that the team “fought tooth-and-nail the whole way” in a game that ended in a 3-1 Sabres loss.
The story might have been different in Tuesday’s game had Sam Reinhart’s game-tying goal in the third not been overturned due to an offside entry. The question Saturday is can they do it again, this time with a more preferable result?
“I think this is the fastest team and it’s the fastest-playing team, the fastest-executing team,” Bylsma said Saturday after the team’s morning skate at American Airlines Center. “I don’t know if you can slow them down. I don’t know if it’s something you can totally take away from them, but we talk about wanting this to be a stationary game. We want to be stationary in our offensive zone.
“It’s the best place to make this game just be a one-zone game, not something that goes up and down the ice with the speed that they have.”
Coverage of Buffalo’s rematch with Dallas at American Airlines Center begins at 7:30 p.m. ET with Tops Sabres Gamenight on MSG-B and Bell TV. The game can also be heard live on WGR 550 with puck drop set for 8 p.m.
On Tuesday, Buffalo allowed Dallas forward Valeri Nichushkin to score just 51 seconds into the contest, forcing the Sabres to have to try and claw back right from the get-go. Avoiding those types of breakdowns, Reinhart said, will be the key to a better result Saturday.
“If you’re playing one of the best teams in the league – if not the best – you can’t give them anything,” he said. “You can’t have any mental lapses, any breakdowns. We’ve got to stick with our game and be ready to go right from the start.”
After that initial goal, however, Buffalo kept a Stars team that averages 3.55 goals per game off the board until 7:51 into the third period. Maybe it’s impossible to completely slow Dallas down, but the Stars players recognized that Buffalo was knocking them off their game.
“I guess it was kind of a bit of a boring game last time in Buffalo, but that’s because they were playing well,” Tyler Seguin, whose 11 goals ranks fourth in the NHL, said. “We didn’t have many chances, they didn’t have many either so you may see the same tonight.”
Both Seguin and his coach, Lindy Ruff, were impressed with what they saw in Buffalo’s next game, a 3-2 shootout loss to the St. Louis Blues.
“I thought everything impressed me,” Ruff said. “Keeping the chances down, I thought their puck movement was good, I liked the speed and I thought the speed of their game was better. All areas for me were really an improvement so tonight, I think, is going to be an even tougher test for us.”
JOHNSON IN NET
After back-to-back starts for goaltender Linus Ullmark, the Sabres will return to Chad Johnson in net against Dallas. Johnson made 30 saves in his last outing, a 2-1 overtime loss against San Jose on Nov. 14.
“He’s solid and confident and he’s been in control,” Bylsma said. “He’s kind of got a calm, confident demeanor, kind of quiet, a little bit the opposite of Linus in terms of being dynamic . He’s just been really solid for us and really given us a chance to win the last couple times he’s been in the net.”
Prior to allowing the deciding goal in a 3-on-3 overtime against the Sharks, Johnson had stopped 30-consecutive even-strength shots. He’ll enter the game on Saturday having not allowed a 5-on-5 goal in his last 191:51 of ice time.
“I think it’s something I noticed even at the start of the year, I don’t think I’ve let in many 5-on-5 goals, I think a lot of my goals have been on the power play,” he said. “We’re good defensively. We have good D-men and we’re accountable defensively as forwards and as a group.”
In other lineup news, defenseman Mark Pysyk will miss his second-straight game with a bone bruise in his lower body. Bylsma said that he has no specific timetable for Pysyk’s return, but doesn’t expect it to exceed day-to-day status.
26 Matt Moulson – 90 Ryan O'Reilly – 12 Brian Gionta
9 Evander Kane – 15 Jack Eichel – 23 Sam Reinhart
82 Marcus Foligno – 22 Johan Larsson – 63 Tyler Ennis
44 Nicolas Deslauriers – 17 David Legwand – 88 Jamie McGinn
4 Josh Gorges – 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
29 Jake McCabe – 47 Zach Bogosian
25 Carlo Colaiacovo – 46 Cody Franson
31 Chad Johnson
35 Linus Ullmark