Chicago Blackhawks Immediately Return to Action with Buffalo Sabres

By Brian Kinkade

Mar 9, 2014; Buffalo, NY, USA; Buffalo Sabres goalie Jhonas Enroth (1) stops a shot by Chicago Blackhawks center Andrew Shaw (65) during the third period at First Niagara Center. Blackhawks beat the Sabres 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Blackhawks are looking to make it 4 wins in a row tonight when they face the lowly Buffalo Sabres in Western New York.  The Hawks seem to have a problem when they play struggling teams.  It’s been written before, but there are no excuses for the Hawks to lose games like tonight’s.

This will be the 2nd and final matchup between the Hawks and Sabres this season.  The previous matchup was the Hawks’ home opener back on October 11th.  The Hawks won that game by a score of 6-2.  Puck drop for tonight’s game in Buffalo is set for  6:00 PM Central Time.  Tonight’s game can be seen on CSN-Chicago and can be heard on WGN 720 AM.

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Offensively, the Hawks are an average team overall but tonight they face the Sabre’s league worst defense.

Defensively, the Hawks are the 2nd best in the league and will be facing Buffalo’s offense which is 2nd worst in the leauge.

On the Power Play, the Hawks are below average but tonight they face a Sabre’s Penalty Kill that is the worst in the NHL.

The Hawks’ Penalty Kill is in the elite class and will be up against Buffalo’s Power Play which is the least potent in the league.

In the faceoff circle, the Hawks are great and will be taking draws against a Sabre’s squad which has been the least succesful in the NHL.

In terms of puck-possession, the Hawks are one of the better teams and the Sabres are once again the worst in the league.

Obviously, the paper advantage goes to the Hawks.  Buffalo is practically trying to lose games so that they can land either Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel in this summer’s draft.  If the Hawks want to win, they will win.  They still have to treat the Sabres like an NHL team and play them like one.  Lately, the Hawks haven’t been doing this when they play non-contending teams, so this game can’t be considered a sure win, even though it should be.

The Sabres are 22-47-8 with 52 points, which has them in last place in the Metropolitan Division, but in 1st place in the McDavid/Eichel sweepstakes.  Weirdly, they have won 2 games in a row.  Anything can happen.

While the Sabres’ struggle have been of biblical proportions this season, they still have a few dangerous players.  Matt Moulson has 5 points in his last 5 games.   Tyler Ennis leads the team in points and has 3 in his last 3 games.  All-Star, Zemgus Girgensons has 3 points in his last 2 games.  Defenseman Andrej Meszaros has been on an absolute tear recently with 5 points in his last 3 games.

Starting in net for the Sabres will likely be Anders Lindback.  In 12 games with Buffalo, Lindback has an excellent .923 Save Percentage.  In 3 games against the Hawks, Lindback has a brutal .872 Save Percentage.

The Hawks are 47-24-6 with 100 points, which is good for 3rd place in the Central Division.  Currently, they are 1 point behind the 2nd place St. Louis Blues and 3 points behind the 1st place Nashville Predators(who have played one more game than the Hawks).  Including tonight’s game, the Hawks only have 5 games remaining and if they want to move up the standingst ladder, they really can’t have many, if any, set backs from here on out.

With 2 goals and 2 assists in his last 4 games, Jonathan Toews has been steadily producing and pacing the Hawks as he now shares the team lead in points with the injured Patrick Kane.  Last night, Teuvo Teravainen scored a goal, his first in 12 games, and has been a surprisingly effective fit on the 4th line with Marcus Kruger and Andrew Desjardins.  The best thing going for the Hawks lately has to be the resurgence of Johnny Oduya.  Offensivley, he only has 10 points in 71 games, but 4 of those have been in the last 4 games.

Starting in net for the Hawks will be Scott Darling.  Darling has been excellent in his debut season with a .941 Save Percentage in 12 games played.

It should be an easy win for the Hawks, but that’s up to them.  With the season drawing to a close and points at a premium, the Hawks need to win this one and it will be a great disappointment if they don’t.

Go Hawks!