As the Sabres close out the December portion of the schedule tonight, the staff at Inside The Numbers(which is basically just me) has decided to once again give you a preview of the month that lies ahead. Here then is a breakdown of the January schedule for the Buffalo Sabres.
The Sabres have 12 games on the schedule, the 3rd lightest month on the season behind April and October. The NHL’s All Star break means everyone gets time off at the end of the month. For the Sabres it means a week between games from the 24th to the 31st.
Buffalo will spend quite a bit of time playing on enemy ice since 9 of the 12 games will be on the road. Of course that could be good news since their road record is better than the home record. In fact, after the January 13th game with Toronto at the First Niagara Center, the Sabres will embark on a season long 7 game road trip. They’ll face the Islanders, Detroit, Chicago, Winnipeg, St. Louis, New Jersey and Montreal. Lots of frequent flier mileage and hotel points for WGR’s Paul Hamilton. Consider yourself forewarned because the TV feeds against the Islanders and Devils will likely be theirs and not the Sabres.
As far as making up ground on the teams ahead of the Sabres in the Eastern Conference, there are just 3 head to head meetings with clubs in that category and going into the weekend all 3(Winnipeg, Toronto and New Jersey) were tied for 6th. On paper the schedule continues to be favorable since Buffalo will also skate against 3 the worst teams in the conference right now: Montreal, Carolina and the Islanders.
It balances out with the crossover games against the West. They’ll meet Chicago, Detroit and St. Louis who occupy 3 of the top 6 spots going into this weekend. But the month begins with a home game against a struggling Edmonton team which has lost 8 of its last 10 games and sits in 13th place.
From an individual standpoint the Sabres will face 4 players currently in the top 10 in points: Phil Kessel, Joffrey Lupul, Marian Hossa and Jordan Eberle. 4 of the NHL’s top 10 goal scorers are on the docket as well: Kessel, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp and Evander Kane. If they all get the start in goal, Buffalo’s struggling offense would have to beat 3 of the top 10 netminders in terms of goals against average and save percentage: Brian Elliott, Jimmy Howard and Nikolai Khabibulin.