NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2014-15 campaign when the St. Louis Blues host the Buffalo Sabres at the Scottrade Center at 8:00 p.m. ET tonight. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.
The Sabres are just 16 games into their schedule and it already seems like a foregone conclusion that they will miss the playoffs. Not that many people are surprised by that. They haven’t just been losing though, they’ve been getting crushed as summed up best by the fact that they’ve averaged 1.12 goals for and 3.31 goals against this season.
So the question isn’t if they’ll reach the postseason, it’s if they’ll start to fire back for the sake of their pride after so many embarrassing outings.
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“You run out of words. Except you say it over and over again and you can’t quit,” Buffalo head coach Ted Nolan said after a 6-1 loss to Pittsburgh on Saturday, per the Sabres’ website. “Our fans pay good money to watch us play and at least compete and perform for that if there’s nothing else. What can you say? We’ve got to find a way and keep searching for it.”
Desperate for a spark, Drew Stafford is projected to serve as a center for the first time in his NHL career.
“We’re trying anything at this point, so we’ll give it a shot and see how it goes,” Stafford said.
The Sabres are also projected to start Michal Neuvirth, which is bad news for the Blues as he’s been one of Buffalo’s few silver linings this season. Neuvirth turned aside a remarkable 49 of 52 shots against Edmonton in his last start and has an impressive .929 save percentage.
St. Louis will counter with one of the hottest forwards in the game in Vladimir Tarasenko. The 22-year-old has pulled off some jaw dropping maneuvers, including this early contender for the goal of the season:
That being said, the Blues’ offense has been a bit lopsided lately, with the Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz, and Jori Lehtera line doing most of the heavy lifting. They have combined for 11 of St. Louis’ last 15 goals.
“The onus is on everybody else,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Before we can even start producing, we’ve got to spend more time in the offensive zone. Those guys know they can play better and they know they’re going to have to play better.
“I think when you become a one-line club, like what happened (Saturday), teams sit on you. And we don’t want to become a one-line club. We’ve got more than that.”
St. Louis saw its seven-game winning streak come to an end at the hands of Nashville on Saturday.
The Blues are naturally heavily favored to win this game regardless of their recent offensive imbalance, but they can’t afford to lose past this game. Being the favorite against a desperate club is a dangerous position to be in and if the Blues aren’t careful they might watch two valuable points slip out of their grasp tonight.