Sabres look to cap western swing with win over Golden Knights

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Buffalo Sabres will try and complete a sweep of their three-game western road trip on Monday night when they face the Western Conference-leading Vegas Golden Knights.

The Sabres take a three-game winning streak into the contest, which includes a 5-2 victory over the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday in Tempe, Ariz. The road trip started with a 4-2 victory over defending Stanley Cup champion Colorado on Thursday.

Playing in front of a large group of family and friends, Tage Thompson, a native of Glendale, Ariz., had a goal and two assists in the win over the Coyotes, his seventh game this season with at least three points. Thompson is second in the NHL with 25 goals and third in points with 49.

“I know it was a special night, him being here,” Buffalo coach Don Granato said. “This is an area dear to his heart. He trains here in the summertime quite a bit and he’s got such a great family, so him to know they were in the building watching him do his stuff, I know it was a big night for him and special moment.”

It was also a big game for forward Jeff Skinner, who returned from a three-game suspension and had two goals and an assist.

“It’s big,” Thompson said of Skinner’s return to the lineup. “He played a great game tonight. Any time you’re away watching from up top, it gives you that little bit of hunger so I know he was itching (to play).”

Buffalo has never won in Las Vegas (0-3-1) but could be catching the Golden Knights at the right time to try and change that.

Vegas has lost five of its last six games at T-Mobile Arena, including a 5-2 loss to the New York Islanders on Saturday.

The Golden Knights have been outscored 23-9 over those six games with the only win coming in overtime against Philadelphia. Vegas hasn’t picked up a regulation win at home since before Thanksgiving when they defeated Ottawa 4-1 on Nov. 23.

Reilly Smith had his second consecutive two-goal game in the loss to the Islanders and has scored a team-best 16 goals, matching his total for the 2020-21 season.

“It seems we’re sliding right now at home,” Smith said. “We just have to do better. We have to make sure this is a hard place to play, and right now it’s not.”

Vegas is just 8-8-0 at home this season, well below its average in its five previous seasons when there was a joke that visiting teams suffered from “Vegas Flu.”

“When you’re sitting in first place in the West, teams coming in here, they don’t want to get embarrassed, right?” Vegas coach Bruce Cassidy said. “So they’re going to be ready to go. That’s a little bit on us. I’ve got to drive that point. We’ve got to be ready. Teams will be gunning for you as well. It’s always on the coach to get your team ready to play.”

One plus for the Golden Knights has been the power play. Both of Smith’s goals on Saturday came with the man advantage, improving Vegas to 6-for-11 on the power play over the last four games and 10-for-23 (43.5 percent) over the last nine games.

“We’re scoring a lot of different ways,” Smith said. “We’re doing a good job giving a lot of teams different looks.”

–Field Level Media

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