Thanks to significant contributions from JJ Peterka, Dylan Cozens, Casey Mittelstadt, and Alex Tuch, the Buffalo Sabres rolled through the San Jose Sharks in a 5-2 victory Saturday. The win concludes a strong January for the Sabres, going 7-4-0 and recording a +12 goal-differential to help their quest to get back in the playoff race.
Things started out dicey for the Sabres as they found themselves down 2-0 to the Sharks early in the first. For the second straight game, Buffalo was able to negate a two goal deficit by rattling off four or more consecutive goals. In this case, it was five.
JJ Peterka was the catalyst for the Sabres in Los Angeles, and was able to do it again as he finished a backhand feed from Cozens to cut the lead in half in the first period. Against the Kings, it was all his line. Saturday night, they received help.
Mittelstadt and Tuch dazzled with some puck work along the boards, and Tuch was eventually able to come away with the puck and find Jordan Greenway backdoor. The goal allowed the Sabres to walk away even in the first.
In the second, Mittelstadt’s strong forecheck caused an offensive zone turnover and he was able to find an open Tuch in the slot.
Peterka scored his second of the night on a quality three-on-two rush with Jack Quinn and Cozens in the third, and Cozens was able to seal the game with an empty-netter.
It’s hard to pick out one player as the most impactful, as every Sabres player outside of the Jeff Skinner – Tage Thompson – Kyle Okposo line ended up on the plus-side of shot quality when on the ice.
JJ Peterka’s second two-goal performance in as many games is the obvious choice. His speed and ability to create off the rush was very apparent once again.
The contributions from Mittelstadt and Tuch should not be overlooked, however. Their line, along with Greenway, tilted the ice heavily in Buffalo’s favor.
Greenway and Tuch recorded the highest individual shot quality for the Sabres. This is in huge part to Mittelstadt’s ability to create offensive in limited time and space.
From a broader perspective, the difference in Saturday’s tilt was that the Sabres simply iced a better team than the Sharks. San Jose’s rebuilding. While General Manager Mike Grier is bringing in some quality talent, the majority of their roster is comprised of stop-gap solutions.
Meanwhile, the Sabres are expanding their core. Peterka and Quinn are the latest to work their way into the mix. Unfortunately, Quinn suffered what appears to be a serious injury in the third period. His leg got caught underneath him going down from a collision near the boards, causing apparent strain on his knee.
He was unable to get up right away, and headed immediately down the tunnel and did not return. Head coach Don Granato was somber discussing the incident postgame, stating that the injury “certainly was not day-to-day”.
For the San Jose Sharks perspective, check out Sheng Peng’s recap on San Jose Hockey Now.
The Buffalo Sabres will have an extended break heading into All-Star Weekend, meaning that their next game will not be until February 6th. The 9-day rest for the team could bode well for the injuries to Zemgus Girgensons, Erik Johnson, and Mattias Samuelsson.
Jack Quinn’s injury doesn’t seem to fit that timeframe based on Granato’s words. We’ll monitor his status as it’s yet to be determined.
In the meantime, Buffalo Hockey Now will have plenty of analysis and content throughout the bye week. We’ll of course provide All-Star coverage for you as Rasmus Dahlin will represent the blue and gold.