Buffalo and Arizona have been known for finishing near the bottom of the standings over the last couple of seasons. Both teams have not started out this season terribly, but a win on Saturday night could really boost the team. I believe that this is a real important confidence game as both teams see this as winnable going into Saturday night.
The Sabres finished last season dead last in the standings. Buffalo went 25-45-12 last season. The Sabres had a big overhaul in the offseason to try and put themselves back in a competitive bracket. Buffalo has started this season 2-2-0. They are coming off a rough 6-1 loss at home to the Avalanche the other night.
Arizona finished last season with a 29-41-12 record last season. The Coyotes were near the bottom of the standings. They also were active throughout the offseason to try and avoid another bottom finish this season. The Coyotes need to kick it in gear sooner rather than later if they want to be more successful this season.
Since the Sabres and Coyotes are in separate conferences, they only play twice a year. Buffalo took the first matchup in Arizona last season. The Sabres jumped out to a 5-1 to begin the game and sneaked out with a 5-4 victory. The second game was held in Buffalo where the Coyotes took a dominate win. Derek Stepan and Clayton Keller each had two points in route to a 4-1 victory for Arizona.
Arizona’s Offensive Struggles
The Coyotes have struggled on offense to begin the new season. Arizona has only scored two goals in three games. After getting shut out in their first two games, Dylan Strome and Brad Richardson finally put them on the board against Anaheim.
Arizona has 110 shots in three games, which is a great total, but they cannot get the puck to bounce the way they want it. The Coyotes could continue to find more offense against the Sabres, but I would not expect them to break out with five goals or more. Arizona could really benefit from some players returning from injury into the lineup to help get the offense going.
Early Season Injuries
The Buffalo Sabres will Scott Wilson and Zach Bogosian on Saturday night. Scott Wilson is a good bottom six forward, while Zach Bogosian is a solid second pairing defensemen. Both players are going to be missed from the lineup. Vladimir Sobotka is doubtful to play against Buffalo, but he could be back in the next few games.
Arizona’s injury report is a little more extended. The Coyotes will be without Dave Bolland, Jakob Chychrun, Christian Dvorak and Alex Galchenyuk on Saturday night. Galchenyuk, Dvorak and Chychrun all play important roles in the lineup. Josh Archibald could be out against the Sabres as well.
Both teams will be missing some key players, but the injuries are much more against the Coyotes. Arizona is missing some key players in the lineup. The Coyotes have some top line guys out of the lineup, which really hurts their chances to bounce back early this season. Once Arizona gets healthy, they could be too far in the standings to catch up.
Carter Hutton will start in goal for the Buffalo Sabres. Hutton was brought in during the offseason from St. Louis to try and turn around the Sabres goaltending woes. So far this season, Hutton has posted a save percentage of .912 and a 3.07 GAA. Last season, he posted a .931 save percentage and a GAA of 2.09. He will need a little extra help to get back to those numbers, but he has been a breath of fresh air for Buffalo so far.
The Coyotes will likely start Antti Raanta in net on Saturday night. Raanta has had a .914 save percentage and a GAA of 1.96 to begin this season. He has been on top of his game, but the Coyotes have not done much to help him offensively. Last season, Raanta had a save percentage of .930 and a 2.24 GAA. Raanta has been a solid starter for Arizona since coming over from the New York Rangers.
Both goalies recognize the importance in walking away with a win on Saturday. A win would get the Coyotes back to an even record, while a win for Buffalo puts them back with a winning record. This matchup’s importance should be shown in the pace of the game.
The Coyotes are coming in with a cold offense and an injury-riddled lineup. Buffalo has shown some promise early this season in their wins. Both teams will look to gain some confidence by taking this winnable game. I believe that the Sabres deserve the edge in this game. The Sabres lineup is stronger without injury and they are looking for revenge after a 6-1 loss.
BetOnline has the Sabres listed at a money line of +120. Buffalo should be closer to +100 if they are an underdog in this game in my opinion. Arizona is missing one of their top players in Galchenyuk and are still looking at how to kick start their offense. I like the road underdog in this game.