Red Wings-Sabres mini preview: Wings host Sabres on back-to-back night for Buffalo

The Detroit Red Wings host the Buffalo Sabres on Hockey Fights Cancer night tonight at Little Caesars Arena (7 PM EST start on Bally Sports Detroit/MSG-B/97.1 FM).

The 9-9-and-3 Red Wings are in a quiet portion of their schedule, having not played since Wednesday’s win over St. Louis, while the Sabres, who always play strongly against the Wings, are amidst a stretch of 3 games to be played over the course of 4 nights.

8-10-and-2 Buffalo just snapped a 4-game losing streak via a 4-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Friday. We’re going to examine Friday’s game via the Associated Press’s straightforward recap…

Tage Thompson scored twice, Cody Eakin had a goal and an assist, and the Buffalo Sabres beat the Montreal Canadiens 4-1 on Friday night to snap a four-game skid.

Buffalo also got a short-handed goal from Kyle Okposo and won for the third time in 13 games. Victor Olofsson and Jeff Skinner each had two assists. Dustin Tokarski made 25 saves.

”When we play with confidence, good things happen,” Thompson said. ”It’s fun to play when you’re playing like that.”

Josh Anderson scored for the Canadiens, and Sam Montembeault stopped 35 shots. Montreal has lost six of seven, falling to 1-9-1 on the road.

The Sabres took control in the second period, outshooting the Canadiens 14-2 and scoring twice.

”We kept it simple,” Thompson said. ”Going north, getting pucks behind them, making their D turn. That’s not fun to play against. Eventually you wear on them enough and you get your chances.”

Okposo’s short-handed goal gave Buffalo a 3-1 lead late in the second. The Sabres had killed over three minutes of a double-minor high-sticking penalty on Brett Murray when Eakin created a 2-on-1 on the forecheck, and Okposo backhanded the rebound of his own shot past Montembeault.

And NHL.com’s Heather Engel’s recap, which also tells the Sabres’ story up-front:

Tage Thompson scored two goals, and the Buffalo Sabres ended a four-game losing streak with a 4-1 win against the Montreal Canadiens at KeyBank Center on Friday. Thompson has scored an NHL career-high 10 goals and 15 points this season.

“I feel like I’ve always entered games with the mindset of ‘I’m going to score,'” Thompson said. “I think now I’m getting a lot of opportunity and they’re going in for me. I think the confidence is continuing to grow, and that’s just the product of guys playing good hockey around me, too. As a group, I think we’ve been playing good. Obviously haven’t gotten a ton of the results lately we’ve wanted, but I think we’ve done a lot of good things. A lot of that success is coming from the guys around me.”

Cody Eakin had a goal and an assist, and Jeff Skinner and Victor Olofsson each had two assists for the Sabres (8-10-2). Dustin Tokarski made 25 saves.

“I loved the way he looked,” Buffalo coach Don Granato said of Tokarski, who had been pulled in each of his previous two starts. “Confident, he absorbed pucks, and any rebounds or any pucks that went off of him were in the corner for the most part, not front. But again, he reads the shot selection very well. And he did all that tonight.”

NHL.com’s recap also includes a Game Summary, Event Summary and set of team Rosters, though the Sabres’ Twitter account provides a set of Sabres’ lines…

And Sportsnet provides our highlight clip:

The Red Wings had a quiet Friday, practicing at Little Caesars Arena without much fanfare from the media on a pre-Michigan-Ohio State game Friday, and the biggest news regarding the Wings was the swap of Filip Zadina and Givani Smith on the Red Wings’ second line, as noted by MLive’s Ansar Khan:

Blashill said he might take a look at Givani Smith on the line with Pius Suter and Robby Fabbri, which is where he practiced Friday, replacing Filip Zadina, who skated with Carter Rowney and Sam Gagner.

“We kind of have two shooters in Fabbs and Zadina, kind of the same type of player, so Smitty would be a net presence, big-body guy (joining) a playmaking center with a shooter in Fabbri,” Blashill said. “That line has gotten chances but they’re a little slight, so you got a big body up there as well. I’m not sure we’re going to stay with it and certainly don’t know if we’ll stay with it within the game but it’s something we wanted to look at.”

Smith has had a rough season, with just one point (a goal) in 15 games.

“I think he’s been solid the last three games,” Blashill said. “I think he can be a guy who if he can get consistent in his game and bring what he can bring to the table that’s different from other people, he can be a guy who can help us.”

Blashill also updated the respective health statuses of Joe Veleno (upper-body injury), Danny DeKeyser (COVID protocol) and Marc Staal (non-COVID illness), as noted by the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan

Forward Joe Veleno hasn’t been able to practice the last two days after leaving Wednesday’s game early with an undisclosed injury.

“I would call it day to day, but not being able to practice puts him very questionable for (Saturday),” Blashill said.

… Defenseman Marc Staal (illness) practiced the last two days after missing three games, but isn’t certain to play against Buffalo.

“He was out for a long time sick and I don’t know if he has enough energy, I don’t know where he’s at,” said Blashill, adding a determination will be made after Saturday’s morning skate.

And without DeKeyser in the lineup, Detroit Hockey Now’s Bob Duff noted that the Wings will be leaning on Dan Renouf on defense:

“Ultimately it was good that we had him because we lost a lefty, so it was good to be able to have a lefty to put in there,” Blashill said. “(Brian) Lashoff’s been a little bit troubled with some injuries. Renouf’s been a little fresher that way.

“Danny’s played in the NHL, played last year, does a real good job on the left side. He can kill penalties. We weren’t going to throw him in without even practising but he certainly is a guy who we have confidence in killing penalties.

“He can be a guy who can be physical and hard and he’s pretty smart. If he can do that, he can help us.”

Blashill and Adam Erne spoke with the media on Friday:

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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.