By Mike Harrington
WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- Good evening and Happy New Year from the True North. If you've been following #QuestforThePeg today on my Twitter feed, you'll know I'm a little shocked to be sitting inside the MTS Centre for tonight's Sabres-Jets game. But I made it a full 10 minutes before Ted Nolan's pregame briefing with reporters after about 28 hours of rigamarole to get here. All part of the gig and part of the quest!.
And Nolan had a big piece of news: Veteran defenseman Henrik Tallinder is not playing tonight and could miss 1-2 weeks with what the coach said was an "upper middle" body injury. Nolan said he thinks Tallinder got hurt on a hit from Washington's Aaron Volpatti midway through the first period Sunday. It was a tough hit, with Tallinder going into the turnbuckle, the rounded part of the glass by the Caps' bench. You wonder if upper middle means ribs.
Tallinder has two goals and four assists in 34 games while posting a minus-12 rating and averaging 19:20 a game. (I hate plus-minus this year for the Sabres. This simply don't score. Hard to gauge anybody).
With Tallinder out, Alexander Sulzer will be back in the lineup. We'll see in warmups what Nolan does for pairings. Nolan said Tallinder practiced yesterday at Riverside Rink but was unable to play and did not come on this road trip.
"Somebody goes down, everybody has to give a little bit more," Nolan said. "Especially with Tallinder. He's been playing really good for us. We're gonna miss him but we've got to play."
Job one in front of Jhonas Enroth tonight is to not let the shots on goal against drift up to where they were earlier in the season. The Caps had 50 on Ryan Miller on Sunday and opponents are averaging 40.8 over the last five games.
"We changed our style a little bit because of the flu bug and being short," Nolan admitted. "But maybe guys took that to an extreme way too much and let the other teams come to us. So we've got to get back to where we were before, a little bit more aggressive. But when you're not healthy, it's tough to do that. We have to manage our minutes on the ice."
The Sabres are just 3-12-2 on the road this year, including 0-7-2 in their last nine games and 0-5-2 in their seven away from home under Nolan. Naturally, the coach wants to turn that around.
"There's certain blips we have in our game," he said. "I thought we were really good in Monteal and all of a sudden they score two goals in like 30 seconds (in a 3-2 loss Dec. 7). Same thing in Toronto the other night. A 2-0 lead and we have the bad second period (allowing three goals). We just have to learn how to play a complete game on the road."
In net. Winnipeg's red-hot Al Montoya (7-2-1, 2.02, .929) gets the start for the Jets. Enroth is 1-7-3, 2.65, .909 and his only win was Oct. 25 at Florida. That's the Sabres' lone regulation road win of the season.
taggedSabres game day | Winnipeg Jets