Buffalo Sabres (20-47-8) at Arizona Coyotes (23-45-8), 10 p.m. (ET)
(SportsNetwork.com) – It’s a rare case of winning actually being a loss.
The Buffalo Sabres and Arizona Coyotes, the bottom two teams in the NHL standings, meet for the second time in five days on Monday night in a matchup that could help factor into the upcoming draft.
Call it “Connor McDavid Bowl II” as the Sabres and Coyotes meet less than a week after Arizona picked up a 4-3 overtime victory against hosting Buffalo on Thursday. Sam Gagner had the winner 56 seconds into the bonus frame, cashing in on a power play after Buffalo’s Mike Weber took a tripping penalty with 30 seconds to go in regulation.
Buffalo fans certainly knew what was at stake as they cheered the win by Arizona. Weber heard the cheers and called it “extremely frustrating” and “a whole new low.”
“I’ve always spoken extremely high of the fans,” Weber said. “I don’t even know if disappointed is the word. … They scored (the first goal) and our fans are cheering. Late penalty, they cheer. They cheer when they score to win the game. …
“We don’t want to be here. We understand where we are. We understand what this team’s doing, what the organization’s doing, the place we put ourselves in, but I’ve never been a part of something like that where the away team comes into a home building and (our fans are) cheering for them.”
One has to wonder how those in attendance for tonight’s game will react. The Sabres are last in the NHL with 48 points, with the Coyotes just ahead at 54 points.
Of course, the team that finishes with the fewest points will have the best chance at winning the draft lottery and getting to select first overall. That selection will likely be Canadian prodigy McDavid, though American and fellow center Jack Eichel is considered a solid consolation prize.
The Coyotes win over the Sabres last week was just their second in the past nine games of this series and Buffalo has won four straight as the guest.
Arizona followed up its win over Buffalo with a 3-2 setback in Pittsburgh on Saturday, snapping a two-game slide. Tye McGinn and Tobias Rieder had the goals and Mike Smith yielded three goals on 46 shots in defeat.
“I thought we started the game pretty well and Smith got us some good saves,” said Arizona head coach Dave Tippett. “They were able to capitalize on some of our mistakes and we couldn’t overcome it.”
The Sabres’ loss to the Coyotes is part of a current five-game slide, one that was extended with Saturday’s 5-3 loss to the Colorado Avalanche. Defenseman Andrej Meszaros scored twice and fellow blueliner Rasmus Ristolainen notched a goal and an assist.
Anders Lindback gave up two goals on 12 shots in the first period and Matt Hackett allowed three goals in relief on 10 shots faced.
“You hate to have to play for pride now, but that’s what we have to do,” Meszaros said. “We have to keep playing hard.”
Buffalo has lost 12 of its past 13 games (1-9-3) and hopes to have forward Tyler Ennis back from an upper-body injury that held him out of Saturday’s loss.