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Red Wings Looking For Payback in Rematch with Buffalo Sabres

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tage thompson, buffalo sabres
Tage Thompson had three goals and three assists against the Red Wings on Halloween (Photo by AP)

Within minutes of falling 4-2 to the Toronto Maple Leafs, Detroit Red Wings coach Derek Lalonde challenged his team not to let the disappointment of that loss undermine preparation for Wednesday’s home game against the Buffalo Sabres.

Lalonde asked his players to give him a quality Tuesday practice dedicated to the mission of avoiding a two-game losing streak.

“I liked our practice,” Lalonde said Tuesday afternoon. “It was just a message and I meant it. We’re sitting here 4-1-1 stretch, even the one loss we played pretty well (against Toronto). Obviously, that was a lot different than a couple of our other losses. But a good team will bounce back from that. That is our goal.”

The “beat Buffalo” challenge comes with a side order of payback. One month ago, the Sabres put an 8-3 beating on the Red Wings. Tage Thompson enjoyed a six-point night against the Red Wings’ defense and goalie Alex Nedeljkovic. Lalonde has already announced Nedeljkovic will start tonight.

The Sabres’  lopsided win over the Red Wings on Halloween night was part of a better-than-expected 7-3 start. The Sabres are a different team today. Since that good start, the Sabres are 2-10.

But their offensive might still makes them dangerous. They rank fifth in the NHL with a 3.68 goals-per-game scoring average. However, the impact of their scoring prowess is undermined by a 3.59 goals-against-average.

Red Wings’ Nemesis?

The 6-foot-7 Thompson is still thriving, boasting six points in his past four games. He has 14 goals and 14 assists for 28 points in 22 games. The Sabres do have a quality power play (25.6%) and one of the NHL’s worst penalty killing efficiencies (70.4%).

We can guess Nedeljkovic, looking sharp in his relief role Monday, will be extra motivated tonight.  That game is the primary reason why his GAA stands at 4.01.

Lalonde didn’t pull Nedeljkovic in that game. He also didn’t pull Ville Husso 10 days later when the Rangers hammered the Red Wings 8-2. The first time he pulled a goalie as a Red Wings coach was Monday when he brought in Nedeljkovic when Husso was having an off night.

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“This one was different,” Lalonde said. “In those last two games we took it on the chin you could tell we had hit a wall as a team, whether it was the workload coming up to it, whether it was energy, you could feel that it was going to keep going. I didn’t want to do that to the goalie playing the next game. It made no sense putting Ville in in Buffalo to face a barrage and then play him the next night. This felt different.”

He just felt the team needed a change.

“We weren’t giving up much,” Lalonde said. “Positionally we were controlling the game, it was just a change. This one was different. We were still in this game. You could see the play, where it was going. This was just for a change.”

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