Fresh off a 3-1 win against the Maple Leafs in Toronto Saturday night, the Buffalo Sabres return to KeyBank Center to host the Vancouver Canucks at 7:30 p.m. Here's what you need to know to get ready for another clash against a Western Conference Team:
1. The Sabres power play is the best in the NHL. The Sabres rank first the league with a 23.8 percent success rate on the power play and have scored four goals in their last six power plays. Buffalo has not finished a season ranked in the top five in power play percentage since the 2005-06 season when they ranked third at 21.2 percent.
"I think our unit is starting to become extremely familiar with each other," said Kyle Okposo who is tied for the team lead in power play goals (seven) with Sam Reinhart. "We know our release plays. We know where each other are going to be and that’s a really big thing on a power play. I think the other unit has been great, too. They’ve contributed with some big goals and they’ve been doing their job."
2. Robin Lehner will be in goal. Despite the back-to-back, Lehner will get the start against Vancouver instead of using backup Anders Nilsson. Lehner made 43 saves in the win against Toronto.
"We’ve played a lot of hockey certainly and we’ve taken the last back-to-back to give Anders a game but been looking for this opportunity to give Robin a bigger work load and he’s getting the back-to-back tonight," Bylsma said.
In Saturday's game against Toronto, Lehner came up big in the third period, as the Leafs poured on 18 shots, nine of those quality scoring chances, with plenty of scrum action around the net.
"The scoring chances that we gave up last night and the opportunities really came around the blue paint," Bylsma said. "Especially in the third period, especially in the second half of the game where they got pucks there, they were putting pucks there, they had people there and crashing around the net. I thought that he has been really good the last two games but last game in particular, being strong on those tight areas, pucks in the blue paint.
"We’ve seen him make great saves, glove saves that he’s made, but that’s where he had to be good last night and was strong in and around the cage. I thought our defense were doing a better job of boxing out and being hard around our net but Robin did a good job of being steady, strong, solid in there covering pucks in those scrums."
3. Speaking of those shots against. The Sabres gave up 40 or more shots for the third straight game Saturday and fourth time in their last six games. Bylsma said part of that is a product of taking penalties, which have allowed the opposition to get good offensive zone time. Buffalo's opponents have 10 combined power plays in the last three games.
"We thought we did a good job in the first 30 minutes of the game last night with getting better at playing defensively and minimizing the chances against," Bylsma said. "We were playing a half court game, the wrong half, against Toronto in the third period. A lot of that for us, too has been the disparity in the penalties. We've given more power play opportunities in the last five games and teams ... have gained a lot of momentum and a lot of chances and a lot of shots because of us going on the penalty kill too much."
4. Justin Bailey is playing strong. It's the third call-up this season for Bailey, who arguably played one of his best NHL games in Toronto with a plus-one rating, three shots on net and seven total shot attempts in 13:58 of ice time.
"I like the speed that he adds and is effective with both offensively and defensively," Bylsma said. "I think he puts pressure on other teams with his speed. He has the ability with his speed and he can still hold on to the puck, make a good play with the puck and support his linemates with that speed. He’s going to continue to get an opportunity to do that."
5. So. No. Miller. Former Buffalo Sabre Ryan Miller will be on the bench for the Vancouver Canucks tonight with Jacob Markstrom getting the start. Markstrom is 9-10-3 this season.
Also in town with the Canucks are the Sedin twins. Henrik Sedin scored his 1,000th career point on Jan. 20 against the Florida Panthers. His brother, Daniel, is at 972 career points. According to Elias Sports, Daniel and Henrik have been in on the same goal 696 times which ranks second in NHL history. The top spot goes to the combo of Wayne Gretzky and Jari Kurri who were in on the same goal 764 times.
Vancouver comes to Buffalo after a 4-3 loss to the Bruins in Boston on Saturday. The Canucks are 4-6-0 in their last 10 games.