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Preview: Sabres need some afternoon magic

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Saturday matinee is key to staying afloat in the division

NHL: Buffalo Sabres at Los Angeles Kings Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Game 8

Buffalo Sabres (3-4) at Los Angeles Kings (2-4)

Puck Drop: 3:30 PM | Staples Center | Los Angeles

TV: MSG

Radio: WGR550

SB Nation Los Angeles Kings Blog: Jewels from the Crown

Know your Opponent

LA Kings

Record: 2-4 | 4 PTS

Last 10: 2-4

Division Ranking: 7th in the Pacific Division

Conference Ranking: 13th in the Western Conference

PP: 27th (8.0%)

PK: 26th (70.0%)

What to Watch

1.) Isn’t that special?

When the Sabres capitalize on the power play, the team is 3-0. When they fail to score with the advantage, they are 0-4. The same is true of the team when they dominate the penalty kill; the team is 3-0 when they keep the opponent off of the board when down a player, and 0-4 when they allow a goal on the PK.

It’s difficult to say why the team is snakebitten on the power play - they haven’t scored in two games (0-for-11). It’s almost heresy to implicate captain Jack Eichel as a weakness in any aspect of Buffalo’s game, but the chart below makes it pretty clear that the penalty kill is a weakness for the young star.

2.) Coming in hot

In Buffalo’s four losses, the team has mustered three goals. Not three goals a game, but three goals in four losses - less than one goal per game. In the seven matchups that Buffalo has played this season, no team has scored a tying goal; the team that has scored first has run away with the game.

Fans saw this in the preseason. Buffalo was either very hot or very cold and it varied game to game. It would be ideal if the team could put together a solid effort (maybe demonstrate they can come from behind?!) but playing the probabilities might be best for the inconsistent team. Score first. Run away with the game. Get this pendulum swinging back in the right direction.

3.) My name is Linus

Carter Hutton struggled in his last game. For the first time this season, he seemed to be fighting the puck a bit, and scrambly instead of confident.

No one thinks Hutton should slot into a backup role but Linus Ullmark appears to be progressing well in his first full NHL season. While coach Phil Housley spent the afternoon shaking up the lines, perhaps he should look to the young netminder to give the team a spark in a Saturday matinee.

Buffalo Sabres projected lines

Jeff Skinner - Jack Eichel - Jason Pominville

Conor Sheary-Vladmir Sobotka-Sam Reinhart

Evan Rodrigues - Casey Mittelstadt - Kyle Okposo

Johan Larsson - Patrik Berglund - Zemgus Girgensons

Jake McCabe - Rasmus Ristolainen

Marco Scandella - Casey Nelson

Zach Bogosian - Rasmus Dahlin

Starting Goaltender: Carter Hutton (unconfirmed)

LA Kings Projected Lines

Alex Iafallo - Anze Kopitar - Ilya Kovalchuk

Tanner Pearson - Jeff Carter- Tyler Toffoli

Austin Wagner - Adrian Kempe - Trevor Lewis

Kyle Clifford - Michael Amadio - Nate Thompson

Derek Forbort - Drew Doughty

Jake Muzzin - Alec Martinez

Dion Phaneuf - Oscar Fantenberg

Starting Goaltender: Jonathan Quick