On a roll to start the season, the Buffalo Sabres look to maintain momentum when they kick off a four-game road trip with a visit to the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday.
The Sabres have won four of their first six games, most recently disposing of the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning 5-1 on Monday. They’ve played only one road game, falling to the New Jersey Devils in overtime Saturday in the second of a back-to-back set.
“On the road, you’re together the whole time and I think it is a true road trip,” defenseman Mark Pysyk said. “Guys haven’t been on the road for a long time where you can go out for dinner and leave the hotel, so I think everybody is excited. Just excited to spend some time together. Obviously, the games, if we have a good trip, that’s the number one priority, but there’s also the fun we can have together off the ice.”
A key part of the Sabres’ success thus far has been the play of their two goaltenders. The duo of Craig Anderson and Dustin Tokarski have allowed a combined 10 goals to date.
“They’ve both been great,” forward Vinnie Hinostroza said. “It’s kind of frustrating in practice sometimes, we’ll have a three-on-zero and they’re making stops. … Both those guys behind you, it just gives you so much confidence.”
Cody Eakin, who has missed the past three games after he was injured in practice last week, is traveling with the team and expected to play at some point on the trip.
The Ducks, like the Sabres, are building for the future and looking to find consistent success. The season started well, with Anaheim winning two of its first three games. It’s been a struggle since, however. The Ducks are 0-3-1 in the past four games and have been unable to close out games in three of those contests.
“We’ve had a couple games this year where it’s tied or we’re up by one and we’re looking to hold that lead,” Trevor Zegras said. “That’s just something that we’re going to have to learn how to do. We got a lot of young guys on this team. So, it’s definitely something that we’re not all OK with it and I think it’s a good thing.”
It’s been a good start for winger Rickard Rakell, who leads the Ducks with four goals while playing with Zegras and Adam Henrique. Rakell had nine goals in 52 games last season – following five seasons of scoring between 15 and 34 goals.
“I think I’m getting myself to the areas where I want to be on the ice, and that’s close to the net, where I can get a hold of rebounds and pucks,” he told the Orange County Register. “I feel like I’ve had even more chances. Our line has been creating a lot of chances. We feel like we’re close, but we’ve got to get over that hump so we can contribute more.”
–Field Level Media