The Buffalo Sabres are coming off of a 10-day break to face a tough schedule this week. They’ll face two teams fighting for playoff positioning and a team that has won two games in a row. The Sabres resume action tonight as they face the Columbus Blue Jackets on the road. They’ll travel to Dallas after the game to face the Stars tomorrow night and then they’ll come back home for a game against the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday night.
1) Tuesday, Jan. 29 @ Blue Jackets- 7p.m. – ET
The Sabres have the speed to matchup against the Columbus Blue Jackets, but the over all advantage in this game goes to the Blue Jackets. The Sabres top line of Jack Eichel, Jeff Skinner and Sam Reinhart has combined for 140 points, and the rest of the forwards need to start chipping in more to make this a more balanced team. The Blue Jackets have a balanced lineup from top to bottom with the defense contributing at times this season.
If the Sabres want to grab two points then the team needs to get off to a strong start and avoid sloppy play early in this game. An effective way to stop the Blue Jackets lineup would be to get the cycle game going and force Columbus to defense instead of being on the attack. The Sabres need to play team defense and avoid turnovers especially in the neutral zone because the Blue Jackets will take advantage of their miscues. The defensemen for the Blue Jackets are known to be involved in the offensive zone so the Sabres should try to take away their time and space to create. The top two scorers for the Blue Jackets are Artemi Panarin and Cam Atkinson so Buffalo needs to make sure that they know where those two are when they are on the ice. The Sabres should try to get pucks on net because the goalies will allow soft goals from time to time.
2) Wednesday, Jan. 30 @ Stars- 8:30 p.m. – ET
These two teams are very similar to each other. The top lines are producing a majority of the team’s points, but the Dallas Stars have elected to put Jamie Benn on the second line in an attempt to spread the wealth in the lineup. The teams lack depth with a couple of defensemen pitching in on the offensive side of the puck. The Stars do have the goaltending advantage over the Sabres.
One reason for the Stars’ inconsistency this season has been the slow starts and lack of first period goals. In 49 games, they only have 23 first period goals. The Sabres want to play a good even strength game since the Stars have solid special teams numbers. If the Sabres can generate some of their own offense while shutting down Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov then they’ll have a decent shot at grabbing two points. The key to the game for the Sabres is making sure that they have a lead entering the third period since the Stars only have one regulation win in 14 tries when trailing after two periods.
3) Friday, Feb, 2 vs. Blackhawks- 7p.m. – ET
The Sabres matchup well against the Chicago Blackhawks in that they have speed and their goaltending has been better than the opposition. The Blackhawks have been getting some production from their centers this season. The Sabres have a slight edge in the special teams department, but both teams had their struggles in this area in the first half of the season.
The biggest key to the game for the Sabres is to hold Patrick Kane in check since he leads the Blackhawks in both goals and points. Buffalo will need to take advantage of their power play opportunities since the Blackhawks ranked last in the NHL in penalty killing. The goaltenders are going to want to make some stops since both teams have players that can put pucks in the net. The Blackhawks may not have the best of records, but the Sabres can’t play down to the competition and need to limit their mistakes.
Sabres Slashes Weekly Prediction
The Sabres will go 2-1-0 on the week and get four of a possible six points. The Sabres will lose a close game to the Blue Jackets, but they will bounce back and win the final two games of the week in regulation against the Stars and Blackhawks.