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Fantasy owners may be loving the first line of the Buffalo Sabres right now, but the group has been an absolute nightmare for defensive units across the NHL. The Sabres' stiffest test yet awaits them in Ottawa, however, as they face lights-out goaltender Craig Anderson and one of the top defensive pairings in hockey featuring Erik Karlsson and Marc Methot.
Buffalo's top line of Thomas Vanek, Jason Pominville and Cody Hodgson all find themselves amongst the top 30 scorers in the NHL through eight games. Vanek currently leads the NHL in scoring with 19 points. Shutting down the hottest player in hockey is a matter of hard work and physicality, according to Methot.
"We've seen him on the highlight reels every morning, he seems to be potting a lot of points right now. A guy like that who's hot is very opportunistic, we have to make sure we're playing him hard around our net and not letting him get any easy rebounds," said Methot on Vanek. "He's a great skater, he seems to be a pretty strong skater on his feet and it's hard to bump him off the puck. We just have to play him real hard."
Tonight won't be the only time Ottawa's top pair will face dynamic offensive players this week. They'll have to contend with the Staal brothers, Jeff Skinner, et al., on Thursday when the Carolina Hurricanes come to town. The week ahead may be one of the most crucial this season as the Sens look to snap a two game losing streak at the beginning of a four game home stand. Momentum generated this week could make all the difference down the stretch of a shortened season.
"You don't want to lose three in a row, not to mention three or four. It'd be nice to get a couple wins here and get some momentum going again for us," said Methot. "We have such a strong team in here in this room and despite a couple of injuries I think guys have been stepping it up so we just have to score some goals."
With the whole team searching for goals after mustering a total of two in their last two games, the Sens will need offensive help from all five players on the ice at any given time. While offensive play isn't a hallmark of Methot's game, there are still ways to lend a hand on offense by helping the flow of play.
"Trying to get the puck out of our end as quick as possible. The less we play in our zone obviously we can get a little bit more chances and play more in the offensive zone," said Methot. "Hopefully we get more opportunities there. Being real quick in our zone is a big focus for us and it has been since the start of the season."
Tonight's game against Buffalo may turn into a run and gun contest, but expect Methot and Karlsson to be up to the task.