The Sabres used the last San Jose game to start getting their game together

The Sabres will be hosting Hockey Fights Cancer night on Tuesday

Paul Hamilton
November 27, 2018 - 12:50 pm

Photo: Paul Hamilton (@pham1717)


Buffalo, NY (WGR 550) - On Oct. 16, the Sabres walked into Vegas and laid an egg. Two nights later, they played better in San Jose, but still lost 5-1. Since then, the team has gone 13-2-2 to get to third in the NHL with a .708 points percentage. At 34 points, the Sabres are tied with Toronto, and one in back of Tampa Bay in the Atlantic Division. The current nine-game winning streak has put Buffalo four points in front of Boston and seven ahead of Montreal.

If the Sabres beat San Jose, they’ll tie a team record with 10 straight wins.

The two games out west were definitely a turning point for this team. Phil Housley said, “That was the start of something better. That was a starting point for us.”

Kyle Okposo took a double minor early in the San Jose game and the Sharks scored two power play goals. He said, “After the Vegas game, we took a look at ourselves and knew that we didn’t play a very good game and we were starting to recognize how we needed to play to be successful and after that game, we had a really good rest of the trip.”

The Sabres are 8-2-1 in the arena this season and 8-4-1 on the road. They have learned not to change their game and Okposo thinks it’s important, “It’s been a big mantra for us this year is not changing the way we play regardless off the situation wherever we may be or if we’re up or if we’re down, we just stick to the same game plan and are calm doing it.”

The last few games, the fans have sold out the arena and have had life. Okposo appreciates the response they’re getting, “It helps when you’re at home and you’re in front of energized fans in your own building it helps the energy get up. It doesn’t mean that we change the way that we play, but it definitely helps our energy.”

The fans in Buffalo have 11 straight wins from the Bills and the Sabres, as well as a ranked college basketball team and a college football team going for the MAC Championship and a Bowl Game. Okposo feels it from the fans, “I have more people coming up to me saying keep it goin. Plus, it was a great game by the Bills as they showed a lot of emotion and I loved that, kind of embodying the city. Josh Allen is going to do some really good things over there, he seems to have the heart of a winner."

Conor Sheary will miss the game with an upper-body injury. Housley said it’s day-to-day and they’re just being cautious. Tage Thompson will slide into Sheary’s spot on Casey Mittelstadt’s line. Evan Rodrigues will center Vladimir Sobotka and Jason Pominville. Zemgus Girgensons will return to the lineup and play on Johan Larsson’s line.

Carter Hutton will go back in net. Lately, the Sabres netminder is 7-0-0 with a 1.98 goals-against and .934 save percentage. Overall, he’s 11-6-1 with a 2.53 goals-against and .919 save percentage.

Jeff Skinner is one goal off the NHL lead with 18. He has 18 goals in his last 20 games. Skinner has points in 8-of-9 games.

Jack Eichel is on a six-game points streak. In that time, he has eight assists and nine points. Eichel has 23 points in his last 17 games. He’s currently ninth in league scoring.

Buffalo comes in with the NHL’s fifth best penalty killing, while San Jose is second.

The Sharks are second in the Pacific Division, one point in back of Calgary. In their last game, they got shut out in Vegas, 6-0.

Aaron Dell has played three of the last four games, notching two shutouts and a six goals-against game. Martin Jones will get back into the crease against the Sabres. In his last three games, he’s seen 13 pucks go by him. Overall, he’s 9-5-2 with a 3.01 goals-against and .891 save percentage.

Former Sabre Evander Kane has seven goals and eight assists for 15 points in 24 games. Kane had two assists against the Sabres in October, but he only has one goal in his last six games and three in his last 20.

Join Schopp and the Bulldog for the pre-game live from (716) Food and Sport at 6:00 when they’ll have Phil Housley and Evander Kane’s press conferences and an interview with Kyle Okposo.

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