The homestand continues Friday night for the Buffalo Sabres as the Edmonton Oilers roll into First Niagara Center.
The Oilers are coming off a tough road loss to the Boston Bruins on Thursday. Edmonton held a 2-1 lead midway through the third before the Bruins scored four straight – including two on the power play 1:09 apart – to win 5-2.
The Sabres are expecting a tired team, but they know they’re still going to have to focus on playing their own game and executing to their best of their ability. Buffalo is 2-2-2 in its past six games, taking the past two into the shootout. Buffalo topped Detroit on Sunday, but fell to Montreal on Wednesday.
“They’re a team you can’t take lightly,” Sabres forward Chris Stewart said. “They’ve got some good players over there, some high-end offense and they’re a team that you have to make them work for their chances and make them play in their D-zone. That’s where they’ll have their breakdowns.”
Faceoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. The Tops Gamenight pregame show begins at 6:30 p.m. on MSG-B and Bell TV. The game can also be heard live on WGR 550.
“The bottom line is we have to play the way we have to play,” Sabres coach Ted Nolan said. “The way we played last game is exactly what we want to do, whether a team has four in five nights or three in four. It doesn’t really matter. We have to come out the way we came out last game.”
THE ABSORBING MAN
Michal Neuvirth will in fact be the starting goaltender against Edmonton. He’s been splitting time in net this season with Jhonas Enroth, but has now earned the nod in three straight games.
“These guys are earning their starts and they’re competing with one another, which is great,” Nolan said. “As I mentioned before, someone’s going to win in the end, who’s going to be the so-called No. 1. But the way we’re going right now, we need both of them.”
Neuvirth made 31 saves on Wednesday in the 2-1 shootout loss to Montreal. He is 2-5-1 with a .930 save percentage and a 2.59 goals-against average as a member of the Sabres. Nolan has been impressed by his ability to make the big save when it counts.
“He’s almost like a sponge with those rebounds – there are no rebounds, hardly at all. He’s playing very well for us,” Nolan said.
“When the games get put on the line, I remember Grant Fuhr. He let three, four or five goals in, but he’d never let that goal to beat you in.H e’s in that similar mold. If you stay close, it’s going to be tough to get one by him and he’s proven that so far. Hopefully he’ll keep doing that.”
17 Torrey Mitchell – 63 Tyler Ennis – 80 Chris Stewart
26 Matt Moulson – 28 Zemgus Girgensons – 12 Brian Gionta
44 Nicolas Deslauriers – 19 Cody Hodgson – 21 Drew Stafford
22 Johan Larsson – 8 Cody McCormick – 65 Brian Flynn
4 Josh Gorges – 57 Tyler Myers
61 Andre Benoit – 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
51 Nikita Zadorov – 41 Andrej Meszaros
34 Michal Neuvirth
1 Jhonas Enroth
Healthy Scratches: 6 Mike Weber, 24 Tyson Strachan
Injured: 82 Marcus Foligno
Injured Reserve: 31 Matt Hackett, 36 Patrick Kaleta
Benoit will return to the lineup after sitting out the past two games as a healthy scratch. Nolan hopes his offensive insticts will help Buffalo move up and out of their zone quicker and more efficiently.
UPDATE ON FOLIGNO
Marcus Foligno took the morning skate and was planning to meet with team doctors afterwards. He said it isn’t likely that he’ll play against Edmonton, and while he doesn’t want to rush the healing process, he hopes he’ll be ready Saturday against Pittsburgh.
He said he took a hit in the first period in the team’s game against the Penguins last week and aggravated his left shoulder. He had surgery on his other shoulder in the offseason.
“It’s frustrating. You want to be out there playing. It feels weird when you’re missing games,” he said. “You mentally think you’re behind, but that’s why you work hard in practice. Now I’m getting out there on skates and getting my feet underneath me again. Hopefully I’ll come back pretty soon.”
IT’S #HOCKEYFIGHTSCANCER NIGHT
The Sabres will again take part in the NHL Hockey Fights Cancer program during the team’s game, presented by ECMC, on Friday.
As part of an NHL-wide initiative to raise money and awareness for cancer research, the Sabres will be hosting events throughout the night with the help of local cancer patients and their charitable organizations.
Fans attending the game will have the opportunity to purchase “RJ” hats for $20 in honor of Rick Jeanneret and his fight against cancer. The hats have been donated by New Era Cap Company and will be sold before the game and until they are sold out. A portion of the proceeds from the sale will be donated to the cancer care and research.
To commemorate the night, all Sabres players will wear purple jerseys and use sticks with purple tape during warm-ups. The jerseys and sticks will be auctioned off on NHL.com immediately following the game to benefit cancer care and research.
There will also be a ceremonial puck drop before the game, so fans are strongly encouraged to be in their seats early.
Hockey Fights Cancer is a charitable initiative founded in December 1998 by the National Hockey League and National Hockey League Players’ Association. It is supported by players, NHL member clubs, NHL alumni, the NHL Officials’ Association, professional hockey athletic trainers and equipment managers, corporate marketing partners, broadcast partners and fans throughout North America.
More details about what fans can expect during the game can be found here.
Buffalo will host Military Appreciation Night on Saturday when they wrap up their four-game homestand against the Penguins.