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Hutton looks to continue hot stretch vs. Sharks

Goaltender has posted shutouts in last 2 starts

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber /

Carter Hutton will look to continue his dominant stretch in net when the Sabres host the San Jose Sharks tonight at KeyBank Center. 

Hutton enters the game having not allowed a goal in his last two starts. His 47 stops in Los Angeles on Thursday set a franchise record for saves in a regular season shutout. 

The Sabres turned to Linus Ullmark in the games following each of those shutouts, sticking to a plan designed to keep both goalies fresh in the long term. The team has a condensed schedule this season as the result of its trip to Sweden in November, when it will play just two games in an 11-day span. 

"There's so many different factors that come into play," Sabres coach Ralph Krueger said. "We clearly, with [assistant coach] Mike [Bales] together, built a strategy for the first quarter of the season in regards to our goaltending rotation strategy and we're holding pretty true to that. 

"How sports science will affect us might be different as we head into some crazy weeks like at the end of November with five [games] in seven [days] and so on. But, at the moment, we've stayed in the plan and mostly what sport science has done has confirmed that we're making the right moves and the right decisions at the moment."

Video: PREGAME: Krueger

Krueger went on to explain the team's decision making as it pertains to outside influences. 

"We don't really operate on anything traditional here," he said. "We're trying to operate on what we think is best for the Buffalo Sabres today and then tomorrow and then the next day and then the next day. I'm not really interested in norms or that kind of decision making. 

"I think we have a plan for the season. This is a long, hard marathon. We're only a few miles into it. I think it's important that you have a plan and you stick to that more than what others might think are traditional norms."

Video: Sabres in 50: Hutton named NHL's 3rd Star of the Week

Hutton has won all five of his starts this season. He leads NHL goalies with at least two starts in save percentage (.953), goals-against average (1.39), and even-strength save percentage (.966). He was named the NHL's Third Star of the Week on Monday. 

In his career against the Sharks, Hutton is 5-2-1 with a .945 save percentage and a 1.74 goals-against average. 

The Sabres are looking to remain undefeated on home ice, where they're 4-0-0 this season. They last opened a season with five straight wins at home in 1984. 

Buffalo's 7-1-1 start is already among the best 10-game starts in franchise history regardless of tonight's result. The current fifth-best start belongs to the 1977-78 team, which opened the season 7-2-1. A victory would tie the 1975-76 and 2009-10 teams for the second-best start in franchise history. 


Scouting the Sharks

The game will be a rematch of the Sabres' 4-3 victory in San Jose on Saturday, when Zemgus Girgensons scored the winning goal midway through the third period after the Sharks erased a trio of deficits. 

San Jose fell to 3-5-0 with that loss, though Krueger said their record is not indicative of their talent. 

"They're going to bring their best game and they're way better than they are in the standings right now," he said. "There's not even a question that that team is going to drift back up and has amazing personnel. 

"I think it's a good back-to-back kind of test. There are other circumstances where you can see an opposition more than twice in a few weeks and we'd like to get there. But in the moment, I think it's a good test for us to stay with it and not to let our guard down and understand that they're going to be a really good hockey team in here tomorrow night. I'm expecting a really difficult one-goal kind of game."

Martin Jones will start in net for the Sharks after allowing four goals on 35 shots in the meeting on Saturday. Logan Couture enters the contest riding a six-game point streak (1+6) and leads the team with eight points this season. 

Projected lineup*

68 Victor Olofsson - 9 Jack Eichel - 23 Sam Reinhart
13 Jimmy Vesey - 37 Casey Mittelstadt - 43 Conor Sheary
53 Jeff Skinner - 90 Marcus Johansson - 17 Vladimir Sobotka
28 Zemgus Girgensons - 22 Johan Larsson - 21 Kyle Okposo

19 Jake McCabe - 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
26 Rasmus Dahlin - 33 Colin Miller
6 Marco Scandella - 10 Henri Jokiharju 

40 Carter Hutton
35 Linus Ullmark

*Based on Monday's practice and subject to change


Tune in

Pregame coverage on MSG begins at 6:30 p.m. You can also listen live on WGR 550, with puck drop set for 7. 

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