Buffalo Sabres Hope to Avert Record-setting Skid Against Minnesota Wild October 14th, 2013 at 9:00 AM
By Paul Lane Sabres 101
Sabres have a chance to enter the team record books tonight, but they'd much prefer not to.
A loss tonight at home against the Minnesota Wild (7:30 p.m., NBC Sports Network) would match the Sabres' team record for the worst start to a season. They went winless in seven games to start the 1990-91 and 1999-2000 seasons.
If there's a silver lining, it's that both of those clubs went on to make the playoffs. The 1990-91 team finished third in the Adams Division with a 31-30-19 record, while the 1999-2000 team grabbed the final Eastern Conference playoff spot with a 35-32-11-4 mark. But this year's team has showed no sign yet of being able to compete consistently. It's scored only six goals while getting outshot every game crash-landing to a 0-5-1 record, dead-last in the NHL.
"It puts a lot of emphasis in the backside, and you can't make any mistakes," said goalie Ryan Miller, who has a .941 save percentage and 2.29 GAA despite failing to win a game yet in 2013-14. "We've got to try to find a way to earn our goals and find a way to score."
That will be a tough task against the Wild (2-1-2). Minnesota is allowing only 2.2 goals per game, sixth in the NHL, and is coming off back-to-back one-goal-against efforts. They also limit their opponents to a league-low 21.4 shots per game but have shown uncharacteristic spark on the power play. Minnesota is converting 30.4 percent of its man-advantage chances, fifth in the league.
Buffalo's penalty kill is one of the team's few bright spots. The Sabres have killed off 90 percent of opponents' power plays, good for fourth in the league. But for the relative stoutness of the defense, Buffalo just can't get any help on offense.
Some of the club's biggest offensive firepower from last season returns tonight in the opposing uniform. Former captain Jason Pominville will play his first game against Buffalo since the Sabres traded him at last year's trade deadline. He has one goal in five games. Zach Parise has four goals to lead the Wild's offensive output. Josh Harding has gone 2-1-0 with a 1.07 GAA in relief of Niklas Backstrom, who's been out with a knee injury.
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