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Storm-weary Sabres ready to take on Red Wings

Dec 19, 2022; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Buffalo Sabres center Tage Thompson (72) congratulates goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (1) after the Sabres defeated the Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Amid their most successful stretch of the season, the Buffalo Sabres are eager to return to game action for the first time in more than a week.

The Detroit Red Wings, on the other hand, will look to build on perhaps their biggest win of the season.

The Sabres will aim for a season-high fifth straight victory while trying to keep the visiting Red Wings from their third consecutive win when the Atlantic Division foes face off on Thursday night.

Due to the extreme cold and excessive snowfall in western New York, Buffalo hasn’t played since its 3-2 road victory over the Vegas Golden Knights on Dec. 19. The Sabres’ scheduled home game against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday and a scheduled Tuesday road game against the Columbus Blue Jackets were postponed.

As of Wednesday, the Sabres players had not practiced with coaches since Dec. 22. But the driving ban across the city of Buffalo was lifted at 12:01 a.m. Thursday, and the club was scheduled to have a morning skate later in the day.

As for the action on the ice, the Sabres have outscored their opponents 18-6, gone 6-for-14 on the power play and killed all but one of their opponents’ 14 chances with the man advantage during the winning streak.

“I’m not too concerned with any momentum or things like that,” Sabres coach Don Granato said. “It’s just keep getting better, keep moving forward. I think our guys are hungry for that and take that approach.”

Buffalo last won five straight during a 10-game run in November 2018.

“You’re going to have breaks where you’re going to have to start again,” said Sabres forward Kyle Okposo, who has a goal and an assist in his past two games.

“We’re just looking forward to the challenge of coming back. We’re in a good spot right now.”

Buffalo’s Tage Thompson has been good all season, logging 50 points in 32 games. He has scored five times over his current four-game goal streak, and 13 of his 26 goals this season, plus 11 assists, have come in the past 11 games.

Thompson posted the first of his two six-point nights this season on Halloween, when he tallied three goals and three assists in Buffalo’s 8-3 home win over the Red Wings. He had an assist in the Sabres’ 5-4 shootout victory at Detroit on Nov. 30.

The Red Wings, after snapping an 0-4-2 skid with a 7-4 home win over the Tampa Bay Lightning just ahead of the Christmas break, returned to overcome a 4-0 hole and stun the host Pittsburgh Penguins with a 5-4 overtime victory on Wednesday. Five different Red Wings scored, capped by defenseman Jake Walman’s goal 2:13 into overtime.

“That was a huge game,” Walman told Bally Sports Detroit. “It’s a back-to-back, quick turnaround, so I think we’re fired up after this. Got to come down from this one a little bit, then get back to work.”

With a goal on Wednesday, Detroit star Dylan Larkin has three of his 13 in the past two games. Larkin has 10 goals and three assists in 12 career games at Buffalo.

Red Wings goalie Ville Husso was pulled Wednesday after allowing four goals on 12 first-period shots, lifting his goals-against average to 5.02 in past four starts. Magnus Hellberg took over and stopped all 19 shots he faced. Meanwhile, teammate Alex Nedeljkovic (4.09 GAA) hasn’t played since Dec. 8.

Over Buffalo’s past four games, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen has stopped 80 of 84 shots in two starts, while Craig Anderson posted a shutout and stopped 69 of the 71 shots he faced in his two outings.

–Field Level Media