Faced with questions on defense, the Buffalo Sabres look to maintain a solid stretch when they visit the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday in Tempe, Ariz.
The Sabres have rebounded after dropping eight straight in regulation from early to mid-November, going 7-3-2 in their 12 games since. They’ve scored at least four goals in each of those wins and at least three in 10 of the 12 games. They continue to lead the NHL with 119 goals and an average of 3.97 per game.
Buffalo has won two straight after dispatching the Colorado Avalanche in the opener of a three-game road trip. But while they skated away victorious, it wasn’t easy. Rookie defenseman Owen Power was a late scratch after sustaining a lower-body injury during his off-ice warmup prior to the game, leaving the Sabres with only five defensemen available to play.
“We sacrificed for each other,” defenseman Rasmus Dahlin said. “I’m very happy about this game, and it’s a great start to a road trip.”
The Sabres didn’t practice Friday, leaving Power’s status up in the air ahead of their scheduled morning skate Saturday. Jacob Bryson, who did not play Thursday, is day to day with a lower-body injury and was placed on injured reserve Friday.
There could be good news coming the Sabres’ way, however. Defenseman Ilya Lyubushkin, who has not played since Nov. 28 with a lower-body injury, is on the trip and skated with the team before they left and at Thursday’s morning skate.
“One day it’s better, one day it’s more sore. But it’s day by day now,” he told the Olean Times Herald on Wednesday.
Jeff Skinner will be back in the lineup after serving his three-game suspension.
It’s unknown if captain Kyle Okposo will be available. The forward didn’t play against the Avalanche and is day to day with a lower-body injury.
The Coyotes enter the contest having won three of the last four since returning from their 14-game road trip, with three straight wins on home ice. They followed up wins against the Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers with a 5-4 victory against the New York Islanders on Friday, erasing an early two-goal deficit in the process.
They’re now 4-2-1 at Mullett Arena.
“I think the fans have been a huge part of that,” defenseman Josh Brown said. “They’ve been great for us, cheering us on. We just want to create an identity at home. I think that’s big, especially when we started the season on the road so much. It’s important to create that identity at home.”
Clayton Keller’s stellar season continued with a pair of tallies Friday, extending his point streak to four games. He now has 12 goals on the season, second on the team behind Lawson Crouse (13), and leads the club with 29 points in 28 games.
“I think he’s raised his compete level,” coach Andre Tourigny said. “If you look at his season, I feel every week he gets better. Every week he’s a little bit more competitive, a little bit better at something. … He’s a guy who really studies the game, and he’s a passionate guy. He’s a learner.”
The Coyotes will look for the season sweep against the Sabres after beating them 4-1 in Buffalo back on Nov. 8.
–Field Level Media