NHL on NBCSN: Red Wings, Sabres try to get it going

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NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2017-18 campaign tonight when the Buffalo Sabres host the Detroit Red Wings at 7:30 p.m. ET. If you want to watch the game online, you can do so here.

On paper, the Buffalo Sabres (2-5-2) and Detroit Red Wings (4-4-1) are who we thought they were, although some might have expected their records to be switched.

Looking a little closer, you see two teams trending in different directions, with the same broader goal to get things back on course.

As frustrated as Jack Eichel has been with losing, Buffalo’s been able to cobble together some recent success. The Sabres are 2-1-1 in their last four games after failing to win in their first five games. It’s tempting to drop a sarcastic “Progress!” but … hey, it’s a start.

“It’s tough to win games in this league,” Eichel said to Jourdon LaBarber of the Sabres website after Saturday’s win against Boston. “You look at our performance today, I think we outcompeted them and that’s why we won the game … We won a lot of 1-on-1 battles. We played smart. We started to attack, our D were coming down the walls, we had some extended shifts in their end and we got pucks to the net and bodies to the net.

“It’s a good recipe for success. We’ve just got bring it every night.”

While hard-earned progress is a narrative with Buffalo, there’s concern about regression for Detroit.

With high-scoring play from the likes of Mike Green and outstanding goaltending from Jimmy Howard, the Red Wings turned some heads in beginning the season with a 4-1-0 record. The Red Wings have now lost four straight games, only managing a single standings point in the process.

(The Sabres have excelled lately despite playing three of four away from home while the Red Wings are struggling despite three of their last four contests being at their expensive new house. The forking paths really come through, right?)

Even with these struggles, it will be interesting to see if Green can keep up his resurgence, and it’s worth noting that Howard seems to have the Sabres’ number.

Both teams really want to get back on track, but the urgency might be at least a touch higher for the Red Wings. Just look at their grueling upcoming schedule:

Tue, Oct 24 @ Buffalo
Thu, Oct 26 @ Tampa Bay
Sat, Oct 28 @ Florida
Tue, Oct 31 vs Arizona
Thu, Nov 2 @ Ottawa
Sun, Nov 5 @ Edmonton
Mon, Nov 6 @ Vancouver
Thu, Nov 9 @ Calgary

It’s early in the season, but there’s a reasonable argument that tonight’s game and a Halloween match with the Coyotes stand as the two “easiest” games for the Red Wings, what with Nov.6’s contest against the Canucks being on a back-to-back.

Eichel, Green, Ryan O'Reilly, Henrik Zetterberg, Dylan Larkin, and quite a few others make this a game with plenty of players to watch, even if each squad has some serious work to do.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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