Red Wings-Sabres set-up: Buffalo hopes to regroup vs. desperate Wings

The Detroit Red Wings continue their stretch of 11 games to be played over the course of 17 nights with Saturday’s game against the Buffalo Sabres (7 PM EDT on Bally Sports Detroit/MSG-B/97.1 FM).

The Wings are also amidst a set of 3 games to be played over the course of 4 nights; they’ll be returning to Detroit on Sunday to host the Vegas Golden Knights as well.

The 4-5-and-2 Red Wings have lost 4 straight games (0-3-and-1), and are coming off a 5-1 loss to Boston on Thursday; Buffalo stands at 4-5-and-1 after dropping a 5-2 decision to the Seattle Kraken on Thursday, and Buffalo flew back across the country on Friday after losing 3 of their 4 West Coast road games.

Most of the focus in Buffalo involved Thursday morning’s Jack Eichel trade with Vegas, and its ramifications for the Sabres, but Buffalo is 1-and-3 over its past four games, and they’ll be looking to turn things around as well.

Field Level Media sets up Saturday’s game, from the Sabres’ side of the ice, as follows:

Buffalo also has cooled off after a hot start. The Sabres return home from a four-game road trip with a three-game losing streak. They were defeated 5-2 by expansion team Seattle on Thursday, getting outscored 3-0 in the third period.

“We just couldn’t get to a simple game,” coach Don Granato said. “Some of it was actual pressure, and when you go back through the film … we’ll be able to pluck a lot out that was perceived pressure. We broke it and we had space to skate or make a play. We didn’t do it.”

Buffalo made a major trade prior to the game. The Sabres acquired forwards Peyton Krebs and Alex Tuch, a top-10 protected pick in the 2022 NHL Draft and a second-round pick in 2023 from Vegas in exchange for former captain Jack Eichel and a third-round pick in 2023.

A 36-goal scorer two years ago, Eichel has played only 21 games since that season due to a neck injury. Eichel disagreed with the organization on how to repair the herniated disc in his neck and the Sabres sought a trading partner.

“We got to a point where this was the offer that we felt was the strongest that we had up to this date, and we felt very good about it,” general manager Kevyn Adams said. “We worked extremely hard for months and months. And we were not going to compromise on what we felt we needed as a return. This was a really important decision for us. So, however long it was going to take, it was going to take.”’s Andy Eide also discussed the Sabres-Kraken game with Buffalo’s players…

Tage Thompson and Kyle Okposo scored, and Dustin Tokarski made 33 saves for the Sabres (5-4-1) in their first game after trading Jack Eichel to the Vegas Golden Knights earlier in the day.

“Think we were just getting outmuscled on pucks and beat to loose pucks,” Thompson said. “I think we gave up too many opportunities against. I think really just a little too spread out. We weren’t as tight in the D-Zone, not supporting each other enough out there. I think we had flashes of good stuff, but we got to be able to connect it for a full 60.”

The Sabres sent Eichel to the Golden Knights for forwards Peyton Krebs and Alex Tuch, a top 10 first-round protected pick in the 2022 NHL Draft and a second-round pick in the 2023 NHL Draft. The Golden Knights also received a third-round pick in the 2023 draft.

“Obviously we addressed [the trade] in the morning,” Tokarski said. “But you know, it’s business time. Game day and I’m sure guys will think about it and talk about it after now, but we knew we had a job to try and do and that was our focus today.”

And’s Chris Ryndak offered this take on the Sabres-Kraken tilt:

[Goaltender Dustin] Tokarski did his part throughout a 33-save performance, but the Sabres were unable to overcome pressure from the Seattle Kraken in the finale of their four-game road trip on the West Coast. 

The Kraken did their job as the aggressor, feeding off the home atmosphere with extended forechecks and capitalizing on mistakes to create odd-man chances. Sabres coach Don Granato felt his team only added to that pressure with self-inflicted mistakes.

“We just couldn’t get to a simple game,” Granato said. “Some of it was actual pressure, and when you go back through the film … we’ll be able to pluck a lot out that was perceived pressure. We broke it and we had space to skate or make a play. We didn’t do it.”

The two teams entered the third period tied, 2-2, despite a 30-11 shot advantage in favor of the Kraken. The Sabres briefly held a lead after goals from Tage Thompson and Kyle Okposo during the second period, but Jordan Eberle responded with a goal for Seattle just 26 seconds later.

Eberle went on to record the first hat trick in Kraken history, cutting in behind the Sabres’ defense for the go-ahead goal at 1:50 of the third period and burying a slap shot on a rush at 8:06. Jaden Schwartz added an empty-net goal late.

You can watch post-game interviews with the Sabres’ coach and players in Ryndak’s recap; the Associated Press and offer alternate recaps ( also posted stat sheets and rosters), and, in the absence of news from a Sabres practice on Friday, here’s Sportsnet’s Kraken-Sabres highlight clip:

Here’s the lineup that the Sabres dressed on Thursday…

And finally, among the Buffalo News’s Mike Harrington’s observations on the Sabres road trip is this important personnel note:

The Sabres need Casey Mittelstadt and Victor Olofsson back, and Olofsson has a good chance to return Saturday after he missed the final two games of the trip.

The club doesn’t have the depth yet to weather injuries. That will change some when Krebs and the injured Tuch are both on the roster.

Seven goals over the last three games of the trip won’t get the job done. The biggest breakthrough player to date has been Rasmus Asplund with four goals and eight points. Cozens has just one, putting him atop the list of guys who need to start finding the net pronto.

For the Red Wings, Friday’s practice in Buffalo saw the team tweak its forward lines, as MLive’s Ansar Khan noted:

[Pius] Suter practiced on the [Raymond-Bertuzzi] line Friday in Buffalo with Tyler Bertuzzi and Lucas Raymond and likely will start there Saturday when the Red Wings (4-5-2) try to snap a four-game losing streak (0-3-1) against the Sabres at KeyBank Center (7 p.m., Bally Sports Detroit).

Coach Jeff Blashill said there was no update on Larkin, who has missed two games due to an unspecified personal reason.

The Red Wings hope the opportunity to play alongside their most productive players will boost Suter, who has just one goal and one assist in 11 games.

“I want to be an overall player,” Suter said. “The production hasn’t been what the team would like it to be. I think the chances were there. I’m missing back door tap- ins, so it’s just kind of a grind in that regard. You don’t want to jump too much to offense, because it’s still important that you don’t get scored on and hurt the team.”

Prior to Thursday’s 5-1 loss at Boston, Blashill said he was happy with Suter’s play. But after signing a two-year contract valued at $3.25 million per season in July, the Red Wings need more offense from the 25-year-old center who produced 14 goals and 27 points in 55 games as a rookie last season with the Blackhawks.

“He’s our most experienced center right now,” Blashill said. “He did a good job last year playing with Patrick Kane and good players (in Chicago), so we just thought potentially the make-up of that line gives him some beef a little bit with the strength of Bertuzzi, and potentially it gives the other line a little bit of beef as well.”

Joe Veleno centered the second line in practice with Fabbri and Filip Zadina.

Detroit Hockey Now’s Kevin Allen offered this take on the Wings’ changes, and their need to turn their sagging season around now…

The Red Wings seem to be at a crossroads: Are they going to show themselves to be an improved team or are they going to be the same team they were last season.  With Larkin missing now and Bertuzzi out when the team plays in Canada, it is starting to feel like last season.

The only way to right the ship is to get more consistent scoring.

“I think it’s just taking advantage of the chances sometimes,” Suter said. “If you look at some games when we didn’t score a lot, we kind of had the same chances, same positions, just didn’t put it in.”

And I’m kind of wondering what the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan is alluding to here:

What a difference a seven days makes. The Wings have since lost three consecutive games and, suddenly, a lot of things aren’t going well.

“We need more guys going at a high level,” coach Jeff Blashill said Friday. “A week ago today we had a lot of guys going at a high level. As of last night (Thursday’s 5-1 loss in Boston), we didn’t.”

On and off the ice, red flags have gone up. The results are beginning to look reminiscent of the last few seasons, when losses began stockpiling.

The Wings are in Buffalo on Saturday, ending this road trip against a Sabres team that is also rebuilding. Buffalo just traded away its franchise player (Jack Eichel) and completed a four-game West Coast trip on which they won once. If ever the Wings needed a victory, now would be one time.

“Whether they’re coming from the East Coast, West Coast or Florida, we just need to play good hockey and take care of our own business,” Blashill said.

The four-game winless streak has sapped optimism from a promising start.

“It goes so quick,” forward Pius Suter said. “One week ago, completely different situation. You just remind yourself of the good games.”

Kulfan continues, discussing the Red Wings’ offensive issues, special teams trouble, and lack of shots in general, but I’m not sure what the off-ice “red flags” are.

Tyler Bertuzzi chooses to leave the team for Canadian games. It doesn’t sound like Dylan Larkin is away from the team for a vacation. And the coaching staff needs to do better. But there are no Goose Loonies incidents here.

Anyway, the Red Wings do need a win rather desperately, and if you missed them, here are Blashill and Suter’s media availabilities from Friday:

Here’s also hoping that whatever is going on with Dylan Larkin rectifies itself soon, because the Wings need him. Until then, I can only wish him health and happiness, and hope for the best.

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George Malik

My name is George Malik, and I'm the Malik Report's editor/blogger/poster. I have been blogging about the Red Wings since 2006, when MLive hired me to work their SlapShots blog, and I joined Kukla's Korner in 2011 as The Malik Report. I'm starting The Malik Report as a stand-alone site, hoping that having my readers fund the website is indeed the way to go to build a better community and create better content.