Both the Buffalo Sabres and Detroit Red Wings snapped four-game losing streaks with wins in their most recent games.
The Sabres’ victory was more recent, coming just yesterday when they dispatched the Montreal Canadiens at home by a 4–1 score. Detroit defeated the St. Louis Blues 4–2 on Wednesday.
The Red Wings and Sabres have both exceeded expectations early in the 2021–22 season by merely being average instead of horrendous. Both teams finished with bottom-five records in the entire NHL last year; this season, neither team is even close to the basement in the Atlantic Division, let alone the league.
Buffalo has received surprising contributions from de facto No. 1 center Tage Thompson, who initially became a Sabre in the trade that sent Ryan O’Reilly to the Blues.
Thompson, 24, is a 6’7″ pillar who scored a total of 18 goals in his first four NHL seasons. This year, he has 10 goals in 20 games.
Lucas Raymond has led the way for Detroit this season, although his ascent has been far less of a surprise. The 2020 fourth-overall pick starred for Frölunda in the Swedish Hockey League before joining the Red Wings as a teenager. Raymond will likely don the blue and yellow of his home country in Beijing at the 2022 Olympics.
The Red Wings
Detroit went with these lines in its 4–2 win over St. Louis on Wednesday:
Tyler Bertuzzi – Dylan Larkin – Lucas Raymond
Filip Zadina – Pius Suter – Robby Fabbri
Vladislav Namestnikov – Michael Rasmussen – Adam Erne
Sam Gagner – Joe Veleno – Givani Smith
Nick Leddy – Moritz Seider
Jordan Oesterle – Filip Hronek
Daniel Renouf – Gustav Lindstrom
Both Veleno and Danny DeKeyser missed Friday’s Red Wings practice. Veleno is currently day-to-day after exiting Wednesday’s game with an upper-body injury; DeKeyser is still in COVID protocol.
Thomas Greiss (4–6–1, .901 SV%) hasn’t started for the Red Wings since Nov. 18. Expect him to get some action against Buffalo on Saturday.
Buffalo deployed these lines against Montreal on Friday:
Jeff Skinner – Tage Thompson – Victor Olofsson
Brett Murray – Dylan Cozens – Kyle Okposo
Rasmus Asplund – Zemgus Girgensons – Anders Bjork
Vinnie Hinostroza – Cody Eakin – John Hayden
Rasmus Dahlin – Mark Pysyk
Jacob Bryson – Henri Jokiharju
Robert Hagg – Colin Miller
After Dustin Tokarski started for the Sabres on Friday, Aaron Dell (0–4–0, .862 SV%) will likely get the call in Detroit.
Detroit: Lucas Raymond (eight goals, 20 points); Dylan Larkin (10 goals, 18 points); Tyler Bertuzzi (nine goals, 18 points); Moritz Seider (two goals, 13 points); Vladislav Namestnikov (seven goals, 11 points).
Buffalo: Tage Thompson (10 goals, 15 points); Victor Olofsson (five goals, 13 points); Kyle Okposo (six goals, 12 points); Jeff Skinner (five goals, 12 points); Rasmus Asplund (five goals, 12 points).
Players to watch
Detroit: On Wednesday, Daniel Renouf played his first game as a Red Wing in nearly five years. The 27-year-old defenseman made his NHL debut with Detroit on Mar. 27, 2017, logging 13:35 in the big leagues before returning to the American Hockey League. He’d spend the next three full seasons in the AHL before returning to the NHL for 18 games as a member of the Colorado Avalanche in 2020–21.
Buffalo: Including this season, Jeff Skinner has six more years on his contract at $9 million per season. That’s a hefty sum for a player who scored just seven goals and 14 points in 53 games last season. The good news: Skinner already has five goals and 12 points in just 20 contests this season and looks to be playing his most energetic hockey since his debut go-round with the Sabres in 2018–19. He had 40 goals that season — could he crack 25 this year?
Viewing and listening options
Saturday’s Red Wings game will be broadcast on Bally Sports Detroit starting at 7:00 p.m. ET. It’ll be sent over the airwaves on WXVT-FM 97.1 “The Ticket” in the Detroit area, as well as on the Red Wings’ official website.
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