The Buffalo Sabres have lost 17 straight, an unwanted record in the post-shootout era, which started in 2005-06.
Don’t blame goalie Linus Ullmark.
Ullmark, 27, who will start Monday night against the visiting Flyers, was injured and out of the lineup during most of the losing streak before returning in Saturday’s 3-2 loss in Boston.
The 6-foot-4, 215-pound Sweden native missed 15 of the Sabres’ 17 straight defeats -- he was injured and had no decision in the first loss, a 4-3 overtime defeat Feb. 25 to New Jersey. Ullmark stopped all 15 first-period shots in that game, then was replaced by Carter Hutton to start the second period.
Ullmark is one of the few Buffalo players who is having a quality season. The Sabres were 6-8-2 when Ullmark was injured. They are now a league-worst 6-23-4.
Ullmark is 5-5-2 with a 2.49 goals-against average and .918 save percentage this season; he has not faced the Flyers this year. In two career games against Philadelphia, Ullmark is 1-1 with a 3.51 GAA and .899 save percentage.
He will face a Flyers lineup that has received good production lately from Sean Couturier and Shayne Gostisbehere. In the last five games, Couturier has three goals and five points, while Gostisbehere has three assists and a plus-2 rating.
Despite missing 11 games because of injuries (rib, hip), Couturier is fifth on the Flyers with 24 points . He has nine goals and 15 assists in 22 games.
Brian Elliott (8-4-1), coming off a solid performance in Saturday’s 2-1 win over the New York Rangers, will get the call for the Flyers. Elliott, who has a 2.83 GAA and .892 save percentage, has been dominant against the Sabres this season: a 3-0 record with a 0.92 GAA and .967 save percentage.
He will be facing a Buffalo team that is 0-13-1 in March, with their only point coming in a 5-4 shootout loss to the Flyers on March 9. In that game, the Flyers overcame a 4-2 third-period deficit,
According to Mike Harrington of The Buffalo News, if the Sabres drop the next two games in regulation against the Flyers, they would tie Detroit (0-15-1 in March 1977) for the worst month in NHL history.
Flyers coach Alain Vigneault said he will leaning on his leadership group to make sure his team doesn’t take the Sabres too lightly.
Vigneault said he will use the same lineup that outlasted the Rangers on Saturday. That means the defense will again have Ivan Provorov with Justin Braun, Travis Sanheim with Phil Myers, and Samuel Morin with Gostisbehere. ... Alex Lyon will be the backup goalie Monday, and Vigneault said either Lyon or Elliott will get the call Wednesday in Buffalo as struggling Carter Hart (4.04 GAA, .869 save percentage) does extra work with goalie coach Kim Dillabaugh. ... The Flyers are 4-1 and have three shutouts this year against Buffalo; they have never blanked a team four times in a season in franchise history.