Buffalo Sabres vs. Nashville Predators Preview

The league-leading Nashville Predators (39-13-7) are in town tonight to take on the league-worst Buffalo Sabres (17-38-4). This is the first time these two teams will meet this season, with the second meeting set to take place late in March. With this game being played on a Sunday, both teams come into this game playing three games in just four days.

This is the final game for Nashville in a three-game road trip. With a 3-2 shooout loss to the Philadelphia Flyers last night, the Preds dropped back-to-back games for the first time this season. Comparatively speaking when it comes to home/away records though, Nashville is most definitely a home team, boasting a 25-3-1 record at home while only having a 14-10-6 record on the road. The team comes into Buffalo looking to play a full, dominant 60 minute game in order to evade dropping three games in a row for the first time this season.

“It was everyone,” Preds forward Mike Fisher said on the loss to Philadelphia last night. “We all knew we weren’t playing well. Third periods have been our period all year long and we were solid in it. We got a point and we’ll roll into Buffalo tomorrow.”

Following a 3-2 shootout lose to the Philadelphia Flyers last night, the Nashville Predators come to Buffalo tonight looking to pick up their first win in a three-game road trip. Photo courtesy of Matt Slocum/Associated Press

Following a 3-2 shootout lose to the Philadelphia Flyers last night, the Nashville Predators come to Buffalo tonight looking to pick up their first win in a three-game road trip.

Photo courtesy of Matt Slocum/Associated Press

Buffalo looks to replicate a full 60 minutes of hockey tonight as well. With Rangers goaltender Mackenzie Skapski playing in first NHL game Friday night, the Sabres were heavily outshot 43-25 and found themselves playing most of the game in their own defensive zone. With two full defensive lines out for the game tonight, the same defensive struggles could persist.

The Sabres will be without defenseman Tyson Strachan, Nikita Zadorov, Mike Weber, and Josh Gorges tonight.

Weber and Gorges are both in the garage; with Sabres head coach Ted Nolan confirming Gorges’ issues as season ending this afternoon. Gorges had missed the past four games before Nolan’s announcement today following the team’s morning skate. Weber will miss at least two weeks due to an upper-body injury sustained in the game against the Rangers.

Zadorov is missing tonight’s game due to apparent off-ice problems. The behavior does not come as a surprise. Zadorov was previously suspended for missing practice after the All-Star Break.

“It’s just part of the growing process. But this one here, we’ll just have to deal with him,” Nolan said. “He’s 19 years old. Sometimes you’re mature in certain things, sometimes you’re not. Unfortunately, we’ll have to deal with him..”

Sabres defenseman Nikita Zadorov (pictured above) will miss tonight's game due to a suspension dished out by the team. This is the second time the young defenseman has been suspended and his suspension comes as a cost to a Sabres team that will only have four healthy defenseman for tonight's game.  Photo courtesy of Bill Wippert/Getty Images

Sabres defenseman Nikita Zadorov (pictured above) will miss tonight's game due to a suspension dished out by the team. This is the second time the young defenseman has been suspended and his suspension comes as a cost to a Sabres team that will only have four healthy defenseman for tonight's game. 

Photo courtesy of Bill Wippert/Getty Images

Sounds like cabin fever due to the Buffalo winter is getting the best of the young defenseman. The winter claimed Strachan for tonight’s game as he reportedly came down with an infection overnight.

With four defenseman out, the Sabres will have to rely on the younger talent backing the line. Rasmus Ristolainen will most likely log some big minutes tonight. Nolan will have him playing the PK alongside newcomer Zach Bogosian.

“I think I’m ready for it and if I get some PK time, I will do everything I can to keep the puck away from our net,” Ristolanien told the media after the morning skate.

It will be interesting to see who makes the trip down the 90 from Rochester to help out at the blue line. The Amerks play a 5:05 game against the Syracuse Crunch so the call ups will most likely be a game time decision for the team. Either or both defenseman Mark Pysyk and Chad Ruhwedel will most likely find their way behind the Sabres bench for tonight’s game.

Michal Neuvirth is the confirmed starter between the pipes tonight for the Sabres. This is his fifth-straight start for Buffalo. In those five starts, Neuvirth had a .936 save-percentage and 1.6 goals against.

The puck drops at 6 with Tops Gamenight coverage beginning at 5:30 on MSG. As always, WGR 550 will also have the game covered on the radio. For in-game updates and play-by-play  for tonight’s game, you can also follow @TheHerdReport on Twitter.