SAN JOSE – The Buffalo Sabres are aware that they face a tough test against the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday.
San Jose is 10-1-3 on the season and 5-0-1 at home. Seven players have 10 or more points, including their top three centers, Joe Thornton (1+13), Joe Pavelski (6+10) and Logan Couture (7+9). The Sabres know they won’t be able to take a shift off and will have to be ready from puck drop, which is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. (10:30 p.m. in Buffalo).
“We have to come out as a team and play like a team for 60 minutes. If we don’t do that, it’s going to be a long night for us,” Sabres defenseman Henrik Tallinder said after the morning skate at SAP Center.
Sabres coach Ron Rolston said that through 16 games, Buffalo really hasn’t faced a team like the Sharks yet.
“This is the deepest lineup we’ll face. Early on in the season, we’ve played a lot of teams that have had two superstars up the middle, but this team’s got three,” Rolston said. “They’ve got three centers and three lines, really, that could be the first line on any team in the League. Every night is a challenge for a lot of these young players and tonight’ll be another one, especially on the road here.”
Buffalo will look to take some of the lessons they learned after a physical practice on Monday into the game Tuesday. Sabres captain Steve Ott said it starts with hard work.
“They have strong depth and if you’re not showing up and working, challenging their top guys to compete then it can go the other way in a hurry,” he said. For us, we have to play that way, we have to be physical, we have to compete for us to be successful tonight.”
Marcus Foligno might have been on the outside looking in at the lineup. After a few admittedly tough games, he started practice on Monday as the extra skater in line rushes, but did enough throughout the rest of the workout to convince the coaches he should be on the ice against the Sharks.
Foligno will center a line with Ott on the left and Corey Tropp on the right. He’s looking forward to facing off against San Jose’s talented centers.
“It goes with moving the feet. They’ve got big guys. They don’t want to play in their zone, that’s for sure. We need to make sure we’re bringing it right back at them,” he said. “We gotta make sure our big guys are playing like big guys and the smaller guys are moving their feet and making plays on their big guys. For myself, it’s going to be a good test.”
Rolston looks forward to a bounce-back game from Foligno as well.
“He’s got a lot of character. I think he’s a future leader for us and he’s a player that takes a lot of pride in his game,” Rolston said. “He knows where he’s at right now or where his last couple games have been and it is up to him at that point to take advantage of the opportunity he’s been given, which is quite a bit for us. I expect him to bounce back tonight.”
Sabres captain Steve Ott played with the Dallas Stars for nine seasons. While in the Western Conference, he found himself in the Shark Tank often and said that it’s a fun building to play in.
“It starts with the building, the energy. It’s an easy energy boost when you have fan support like they do and you come in and you’re playing a villain role or the spoiler role,” he said. “That’s probably the best part of it. And also, they’ve always had good teams. They’ve had great players and personally, I love competing against good players and trying to play hard against them.”
Ryan Miller was the first goaltender off the ice for the morning skate and is expected to start in goal. Rookies Mikhail Grigorenko and Nikita Zadorov stayed on the ice after practice with suspended forward John Scott, so they are likely the scratches.
26 Matt Moulson – 19 Cody Hodgson – 63 Tyler Ennis
9 Steve Ott – 82 Marcus Foligno – 78 Corey Tropp
28 Zemgus Girgensons – 22 Johan Larsson – 65 Brian Flynn
23 Ville Leino – 8 Cody McCormick – 21 Drew Stafford
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