There’s a tendency for teams to take the Sabres lightly. Buffalo’s next two opponents don’t have that luxury.
Following Friday’s 3-1 loss to over New Jersey, the Sabres boarded their charter for a two-game road trip. They visit Nashville on Saturday and play against Lindy Ruff and the Dallas Stars on Monday. The games have playoff implications for Buffalo’s opponents.
Nashville is desperate for a victory after falling out of first place in the Western Conference’s Central Division. The Predators are just 2-8-1 in their last 11 games and trail St. Louis by two points.
“It’s frustrating because nobody wants to lose games,” coach Peter Laviolette told reporters in Nashville. “You do a lot of things right and there’s things that you can do better, or you’re not getting the results that you want. It can be frustrating, but our group’s got a lot of confidence in the fact that we’ve won a lot of games this year.
“We got back to work on some things, and I think that’ll help with the confidence as well.”
The Predators’ scoring has dried up with 14 goals in the last nine games. Forwards Colin Wilson (20 goals, 20 assists) and James Neal (22 goals) missed practice Friday with injuries. To fill the hole, the Preds called up rookie Viktor Arvidsson from the minors, where he led Milwaukee with 20 goals and 51 points in 63 games.
“We’re still getting chances, but the games seem to be getting a little bit tighter,” Laviolette said in Nashville. “There’s been games where we’ve had lots of attempts and just haven’t gotten the results.”
Dallas, meanwhile, is winning but can’t climb the standings. The 12th-place Stars are on a 6-2 run but have gained just one point on a wild-card spot. Dallas is eight points out of a playoff position.
The Stars, coming off a 2-1 victory over Pittsburgh, host Chicago on Saturday.
“We can only control what we do,” Ruff said on Stars.com. “My frustration is some of those earlier home games that we didn’t win. The frustration in not putting the puck in the back of the net against Winnipeg in a game when we totally dominated. We’ve made other goalies the stars of the night. Those are my frustrations.
“You control what you are able to control. The rest you’ve got to sit around and hope for.”
There haven’t been many opportunities for Sabres players to earn praise, but coach Ted Nolan found time for two Friday.
“Somebody asked me who’s the most consistent player on this team and who’s the most valuable player on the team this year,” Nolan said in First Niagara Center. “Tyler Ennis, by far. His vision, his dynamic, his intuition with the puck, he darts in and out, he’s competitive.
“Scoring 18 goals now without – no knock against the centermen he had – but you give him a legitimate, experienced center iceman to feed him some pucks, the sky is the limit for this kid. You look at 18, you could look at 38, 40.”
Nolan also had been impressed by defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen, who entered the meeting with the Devils on a two-game point streak while averaging 28:17 of ice time during the contests.
“For every time he took a step back, he took two steps forward,” Nolan said. “This is another situation where he’s playing OK, then all of a sudden the last couple he’s been lifting his game up even to a better level.
“His vision is certainly up there with the elite guys in this league. Once maturity catches up, he should be a dandy.”
Sabres defenseman Mike Weber played his 300th NHL game. Fellow blue-liner Andrej Meszaros returned after missing two games with an upper-body injury, forcing the Sabres to send Chad Ruhwedel back to Rochester. The defenseman was up on an emergency recall with Meszaros and Zach Bogosian sidelined. Bogosian missed his fourth straight game with a lower-body ailment.