A game in Buffalo has usually not ended well for the San Jose Sharks. But the way the Western Conference-leading Sharks are surging and the Sabres are sliding, there could be a much different result at HSBC Arena on Saturday night.
Playing its final game before the Olympic break, San Jose (40-12-9) will try to win for the fifth time on its six-game trip. The Sharks, though, are 1-11-1 all-time in Buffalo.
In the teams' last meeting at HSBC Arena exactly a year ago, San Jose lost 6-5 in a shootout after Jason Pominville scored the game-tying goal past Evgeni Nabokov with four seconds remaining in regulation.
Nabokov, though, arrives in Buffalo for this season's second matchup with the Sabres on a NHL-record 11-game road winning streak. Nabokov, who has a 1.97 GAA during this stretch, made a career-high 50 saves in a 3-2 victory at Detroit on Thursday when the Sharks won for the first time in four matchups with the defending Western Conference champion Red Wings this season.
"We got two points, that's what counts," said Nabokov, who made 38 saves in a 5-2 win over Buffalo on Jan. 23. "Two points is two points. I don't care who they're against."
The Sabres (32-18-9) likely feel the same way as they enter their final contest before the Olympic break on a six-game slide. Buffalo was tied atop the Eastern Conference standings on Jan. 18, but has lost 10 of 12 to fall into second place in the Northeast Division, one point behind red-hot Ottawa.
With a 2-0 first-period lead at Carolina on Thursday, the Sabres were well on their way to posting their first victory since Jan. 29. Buffalo, though, fell 4-3 in overtime to extend its longest skid since a 0-5-5 stretch Dec. 26, 2007-Jan. 16, 2008,
"We're not going to coast into the playoffs," said Ryan Miller, who is 2-1-0 with a tie in four career starts against San Jose. "If we keep up this pace, we're not even going to make the playoffs. This is getting ridiculous."
Although Miller is likely to start for the United States Olympic team, he is 2-5-3 with a 2.94 GAA in his last 10 starts.
If Miller gets the start Saturday, he'll face a San Jose team that's averaging 3.8 goals while winning 10 of 13.
San Jose center Joe Thornton, who has a league-best 59 assists, has three goals and 11 assists in his last eight games in Buffalo, including four in last season's visit.
Sharks center Patrick Marleau has a team-high 38 goals but has not found the back of the net in the last four games. Marleau, though, scored the lone goal in Thursday's shootout as the Sharks improved to 13-2-0 on the road since Nov. 17.
The Sabres will try to avoid their first four-game home losing streak since an 0-3-1 skid Feb. 29-March 10, 2008.
San Jose's only victory in Buffalo was 5-0 on Dec. 2, 2005.