Detroit, MI (WGR 550) -- The NHL has ended its three day holiday break as the Sabres are in Detroit tonight. No team can travel on December 26, so all the visiting teams left home this morning. The Sabres went straight to Joe Louis Arena from the airport and with both teams being off the ice for three days, Brian Gionta expects a sloppy affair, “Both teams are in the same situation, a little rust on both sides, so it won’t be the cleanest of games, but hopefully we come out and battle hard.”
“Guys are moving, you have your legs and your conditioning, it’s just catching your timing.”
The team must do without Ryan O’Reilly for a little while after the center had appendectomy. Gionta said the center will be missed, “It’s tough news obviously, but at the end of the day, it’s a good thing that he found it early on and that there’s nothing too severe about it.”
With O’Reilly out the lines had to be changed:
Foligno Eichel Mouslon
Girgensons Reinhart Okposo
Kane Larsson Gionta
Carrier Grant Deslauriers
Buffalo went into the break with a four game losing streak and are two points behind Detroit in the Atlantic Division.
If you use point percentage, the Sabres are tied with New Jersey and the Islanders at .485 which is 25th in the NHL, but last in the Eastern Conference.
The Sabres had been on a decent streak of scoring goals, but in three of the four losses, Buffalo has scored just one goal.
Buffalo is 28th in the NHL with 2.12 goals per game. Detroit is 26th with 2.29 goals per game.
One thing I’ve noticed lately is the team seems to be thinking on the ice and not reacting. Gionta said, “Absolutely, when you’re in-between, when you’re guessing, when you’re over thinking, you’re in that gray area and we can’t find ourselves there. We’ve got to just go and if we’re going to make a mistake, make it an aggressive mistake.”
Dan Bylsma said he thinks it’s more puck management than thinking too much, “In the last two games we’ve given up odd man situations against then have given great opportunities and some of that has been our attention to the defensive side of the puck and really we’ve given up opportunities because of the way we’ve played with the puck.”
Robin Lehner will be back in goal for the Sabres. Lehner is 2-1-1 in his last four starts and his given up either two or three goals in seven straight starts.
Dan Bylsma said Cody Franson is a game-time decision, but he did practice on the second power play unit.
Just as the fans in Buffalo are questioning if Sam Reinhart is going to live up to being a high draft pick, fans in Detroit are questioning if Dylan Larkin in what everyone though he would be after last season.
Larkin has 10 goals and three assists for 13 points in 34 games. Reinhart has seven goals and 12 assists for 19 points in 33 games. Larkin has one goal and one assist in his last six games.
Detroit has won two out of three, but take it back seven games and the Red Wings have won just two of seven.
The Red Wings went four games where they scored just three goals, but recently they’ve scored six, one and four.
Henrik Zetterberg hasn’t scored a goal in eight games, but he does have an assist in each of his last three.
Jared Coreau played goal for Detroit in the win at Florida. He’s 1-1-0 with a 3.41 goals against and .900 save percentage. Those are the only two games the 25-year-old free agent has played in the NHL.
Join the Brian Koziol for the pregame beginning at 7:20 when he’ll be joined by Dan Bylsma, Brian Gionta and Sam Reinhart. Faceoff is slated for 7:56.