EDMONTON, Alberta -- The Buffalo Sabres' dressing room was swarmed today in Rexall Place after the pregame skate for tonight's McEichel Derby. Yep, Tankapalooza is big news in Canada. Quite a bit more than in a place like, say, Carolina.
And the Sabres were peppered by the Edmonton media with questions about the circumstances about tonight's game. Of course, they have bigger issues. Like that little 12-game losing streak.
"It's taxing, especially when the losses pile up," Drew Stafford admitted about the draft inquiries, pointing out he's heard the talk since last summer. "But it's part of the business, part of the job of being a professional here. We're trying to do our best to stop this streak and that's our priorities are."
"It's been a struggle for sure. Inside this room, guys have been frustrated by the outcomes," said captain Brian Gionta. "We have to find ways to turn this around. We want to start playing better these last 35 games, getting ourselves in the right mindset to change the culture."
Coach Ted Nolan was a little coy about his lineup tonight, saying he had a decision to make after the warmups. There were no changes from who skated Tuesday in Calgary, so Nolan is likely just referring to his scratch on defense. The coach said Nikita Zadorov will return to the lineup Friday night in Vancouver; Zadorov skated with Andre Benoit today.
Jhonas Enroth will be in goal and Nolan said he's not yet decided if Enroth will go back to back Friday in Vancouver. Enroth has said he wanted to play all four games on this trip.
Cracked Nolan: "We'll see how the game goes tonight," Nolan said. "Well he wants it? We want a lot of things. We want some wins too. We'll see what happens."
Enroth can certainly help in that area. He's lost seven straight, giving up 36 goals in his last eight appearances and 17 goals over his last three. Ouch. Ben Scrivens will be in goal for Edmonton. It's not too often you cover a January game with two goalies who have save percentages under .900 (Enroth .899, Scrivens .895).
The Oilers will be without standing winger Taylor Hall, who has a bone bruise in his leg and will miss his second straight game. The former No. 1 overall pick has been decidedly ordinary this season, with just 11 goals and 29 points in 41 games.