Red-hot Sabres begin Calif. swing in Anaheim
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One of two Eastern Conference teams without a defeat in regulation will take its must-see show to the West Coast as the Buffalo Sabres play at the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday.
At 5-0-1, the Sabres have 11 points out of a possible 12 and the start to the season is their best since the 2008-09 team also opened with a 5-0-1 mark. But four of those victories have come at home, with Wednesday's game beginning a three-game California swing that also will include stops at Los Angeles and San Jose.
Buffalo's only blemish on the season was a 4-3 overtime defeat at Columbus on Oct. 7, when rookie Victor Olofsson scored on the power play to tie it with just more than a minute remaining in regulation.
Three consecutive victories have followed for the Sabres, including a 4-0 home win Monday over the Dallas Stars. That victory came against goalie Ben Bishop, who entered with a 12-0-1 mark against Buffalo in his last 13 games.
"I'm not (surprised) because of how this group has bought in right from Day 1," Sabres head coach Ralph Krueger said of his team's impressive start. "I just remember that first day (of practice), those two sessions and the interest and the communication that has been going on here. It's not surprising me."
Olofsson came away with something of an obscure record Monday, becoming the first player in NHL history to score the first seven goals of his career on the power play. He has five power-play goals this season.
"These younger guys have the whippy sticks and it's hard to pick up their release," said Sabres goalie Carter Hutton, who improved to 4-0-0 on Monday while recording his first shutout in 52 starts with Buffalo. "The puck flight isn't flat. It floats a little bit, it's almost like a riser. It's hard to save in practice so I can't imagine when he's bombing them on the power play and there's traffic and stuff. He's a pure goal scorer, that's for sure."
The Ducks also have started fast, but are coming off a 4-2 defeat at Boston on Monday afternoon. They now have to face another top Eastern Conference team in Buffalo.
Anaheim held up well during a just-completed four-game road swing that included victories at Detroit and Columbus.
"If we get a bounce here or there, we could've won every game on (the) road trip," Ducks defenseman Korbinian Holzer said, according to NHL.com. "We played really well over the course of the trip. Even (Monday), we needed time to settle in and get used to (Boston's) style of play. After that, we played right up to their level, maybe even better at times."
With four victories in their first six games, the Ducks are starting to distance themselves from a disappointing 2018-19 season when they missed the playoffs and saw head coach Randy Carlyle get fired.
But they did win five of their first seven last season before going on a seven-game losing streak about this time last year. The second defeat in that losing streak came at home to Buffalo.
While the Sabres are among the best teams in the NHL on the man advantage with a 42.9 power-play percentage, the Ducks have yet to score a power-play goal this season.
--Field Level Media
Updated October 16, 2019