The Buffalo Sabres are home again and they’ll open a four-game slate at First Niagara Center against the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday.
Improving the power play has been a focus in practice the past few days. Sabres forward Matt Moulson, who has six points (3+3) in his past six games against the Kings, thinks improved communication on the man advantage will pay off huge dividends.
“We’ve just been working on trying to get on the same page and make sure we’re doing the best job of getting shots on net and getting guys to the net,” he said. “That’s something you get out of funks and get goals, especially on the power play is making sure guys are to the net and pucks are getting there. We’ve been working on that a lot.”
To try and get those shots through, the coaching staff moved Drew Stafford to the point on the first unit and added Marcus Foligno as a net-front presence on the second unit.
What would Sabres coach Ted Nolan like to see out of the power play?
“A goal,” he said after the team’s morning skate. “Hopefully it’s going. We have to work on it. If we do the simple things and get people in front of the net, that’s the big thing. We just worked on keeping it real simple and trying to create some traffic in front of the net, especially with this team here tonight.”
LONG LINE OF SUCCESS
The Sabres are 11-1-1 (one tie) in their past 13 home games against the Kings, dating back to a 2-0 Sabres win on Dec. 17, 1993. During this stretch, the Sabres have outscored the Kings 58-21 on home ice.
The Kings haven’t won a game in Buffalo since Feb. 21, 2003 when they skated away with a 4-1 victory. No players from either team’s roster are currently on the rosters today.
Los Angeles has transformed themselves into a strong team over the past few years and has won the Stanley Cup twice in the past three seasons.
“They play heavy. They play strong. We’ve got to play a speed game and we can’t back down,” Tyler Ennis said. “We’ve been doing a great job in the last month of competing and guys have been sticking up for each other and battling hard.
“I feel like we’ve been outhitting teams a lot and playing hard. If we can match that and get pucks behind their D and go to work.”
GETTING BACK TO BASICS
The Sabres are coming off back-to-back losses in the Sunshine State, but before that, they had gone on two sets of three-game winning streaks, beating top teams like Tampa Bay, Montreal (twice) and San Jose.
Knowing they can compete with teams near the top of the standings has boosted their confidence and has helped them move on from those losses.
“We’ve just got to keep going. Today, we’re playing against the champions,” Nikita Zadorov said. “We’ve got to do our best and try to win the game.”
Jhonas Enroth will start in goal and Chris Stewart will serve as a healthy scratch.
“Certain players or all players for that matter, have to play to the best of their ability. If not, there’s somebody else who will take their place,” Nolan said of Stewart. “He needs to play the way he can. He’s a big powerful forward. Big powerful forwards can’t play a soft game.”
The game can be seen on NBCSN at 7:30 p.m. You can also listen live on WGR 550.
Last week, Zadorov, 19, was added to Team Russia’s final training camp roster for the World Junior Championship scheduled for later this month in Toronto and Montreal.
Rasmus Ristolainen was loaned to Team Finland last year and we ended up scoring the golden goal in overtime to win the tournament. While Nolan sees the benefits of having young players skate with and against their most talented peers, allowing Zadorov to play for Team Russia isn’t something they’ve thought much about yet.
“We’re talking about early in the development of these young kids’ careers,” Nolan said. “It wouldn’t be the worst thing that could happen, but we never discussed it.”
26 Matt Moulson – 28 Zemgus Girgensons – 63 Tyler Ennis
65 Brian Flynn – 17 Torrey Mitchell – 12 Brian Gionta
82 Marcus Foligno – 19 Cody Hodgson – 21 Drew Stafford
44 Nicolas Deslauriers – 8 Cody McCormick – 36 Patrick Kaleta
4 Josh Gorges – 57 Tyler Myers
51 Nikita Zadorov – 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
6 Mike Weber – 61 Andre Benoit
1 Jhonas Enroth
34 Michal Neuvirth
Scratched: 24 Tyson Strachan (undisclosed injury), 41 Andrej Meszaros (injured, concussion protocol); 80 Chris Stewart (healthy)