Though both the Sabres and Flyers are in last place in the Atlantic and Metropolitan Divisions, respectively, the Flyers are a full 15 points clear of Buffalo in the standings. If the Flyers were in the Atlantic instead of the Metropolitan, they’d be in fourth place with 42 points instead of eighth in the Metro.
On the ice the Sabres certainly look the part of the Eastern Conference’s worst club, too. Buffalo is dead last in goals per game (2.22) and third worst in goals allowed (3.37). Their power play is clicking at just 11.9%, well below the league average of 19.15%.
In other words, they’re just a really bad team and the Flyers should make it back-to-back wins before a five day break that the NHL is giving each and every team this season as a bye. The teams split the first two meetings so far this season, with the Sabres winning 4-2 in Buffalo on Dec. 22 and the Flyers taking a 2-1 decision back on Dec. 14.
The Flyers will look to ride the momentum of their last two games against the Islanders and Blues that saw the Flyers score 12 goals and go 4-of-9 on the power play. The Flyers dominated the face off circle against the Blues, winning 38 of 62 draws to help drive play with a 54.4% Corsi For in all situations.
Claude Giroux stayed red-hot against the Blues on Saturday with a goal and two assists to give the Flyers captain nine points in his last five games and sole possession of second on the NHL scoring list this season. He has 29 points in 32 career games against Buffalo.
Sean Couturier added his 20th and 21st goals in the win over St. Louis, including what would end up being the game-winner in the second period. The two goals gave Couturier a new career-high of 40 points (previous was 39) through just 41 games.
Tyrell Goulbourne made his NHL debut against the Blues and made his presence felt on his first shift where a big hit on Alex Pietrangelo led to a Scott Laughton goal. The 2013 third-round pick was recalled to bring energy and physicality to the lineup and he did just that against the Blues with a team-high four hits. Flyers coach Dave Hakstol will surely look for more of that energy on the second half of the back-to-back against Buffalo.
Brian Elliott made his 16th-straight start against his former club, but will likely give way to Michal Neuvirth against the Sabres. Neuvirth, making his first start since Nov. 28, is 2-5-1 with a 2.67 goals-against average and a .915 save percentage this season. He’s 4-2 in his career against the Sabres, whom he played for from 2013-2015.
For Buffalo, it’s the Robin Lehner show. On the season the Swede is 9-15-6 with a 2.90 goals-against average and a .911 save percentage. He’s 2-4 in his career against the Flyers with a 3.37 goals-against average and an .892 save percentage.
Even with a win over the Sabers the Flyers will likely enter their bye in a tie for dead last in the Metro, but they’d also do so riding good momentum with a three-game winning streak.
Flyers Projected Lineup
Giroux - Couturier - Konecny
Raffl - Filppula - Voracek
Weal - Patrick - Simmonds
Lehtera - Laughton - Goulbourne
Provorov - Gostisbehere
Hagg - MacDonald
Manning - Gudas