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Preview: Rumble in Columbus

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Important ‘show me’ game for arching Buffalo team

NHL: Columbus Blue Jackets at Buffalo Sabres Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Game 11

Buffalo Sabres (6-4-0) vs Columbus Blue Jackets (5-4-0)

Puck Drop: 7:00 PM | Nationwide Arena | Columbus, OH

TV: MSG-B, FSOH

Radio: WGR 550

SB Nation Blue Jackets Blog: Jackets Cannon

Know Your Opponent

Columbus Blue Jackets

Record: (5-4-0) | 10 PTS

Last 10: 5-4-0

Division Ranking: 3rd in the Metropolitan Division

Conference Ranking: 8th in the Eastern Conference

PP: 21st (16.7%)

PK: 27th (71.4%)

What to Watch

1. FOUR IN A ROW?

It feels like the last time a Buffalo team was looking at four in a row, there was a lot of heartbreak. But this is hockey, not football; and this is the regular season and not four Super Bowls.

Regardless, this game feels big - perhaps bigger than it should. This is another good matchup, and these are the types of games that fans want to see this team win. Both teams can score; both teams are prone to give up goals. Buffalo has an edge on special teams, but have run hot-and-cold. Columbus’ superior even strength scoring could be a concern.

Can the Sabres stifle the Blue Jackets’ offensive prowess? Can a Buffalo team win four in a row?

2. Punching up

Buffalo has has a balanced schedule through the first ten games. The team has played a handful of games against teams that fall below them in the standings, and an equal handful against clubs with a better record.

In the last two games, Buffalo has taken down teams that are competing at the top of their divisions. It’s a huge step forward for the organization after several seasons of yielding to the will of stronger opponents.

A win against Columbus would put further distance between the two in Eastern Conference standings. This early set of points could easily be a difference-maker in a wild card race later in the season.

3. Shooooooooooooooooot

Everyone’s favorite nosebleed refrain may carry more weight than anyone might have suspected. In the Sabres’ three consecutive wins, the team has outshot their opponent 113-70. At a standard 10 percent shooting percentage, that’s four goals in those three games.

When coach Phil Housley came to Buffalo from Nashville, it was clear that his system revolved around a high shot rate. This is evident in the team’s success - shoot more, score more. The Sabres need to ensure they are getting the puck on net as much as possible in order to continue their successes.

Buffalo Sabres

Forwards

Jeff Skinner - Jack Eichel - Jason Pominville

Conor Sheary - Casey Mittelstadt - Kyle Okposo

Evan Rodrigues - Vladimir Sobotka - Sam Reinhart

Zemgus Girgensons - Johan Larsson - Patrik Berglund

Defense

Jake McCabe - Rasmus Ristolainen

Marcus Scandella - Zach Bogosian

Rasmus Dahlin - Casey Nelson

Starting Goaltender: Linus Ullmark

Columbus Blue Jackets

Forwards

Artemi Panarin - Pierre-Luc Dubois - Cam Atkinson

Nick Foligno - Boone Jenner - Josh Anderson

Oliver Bjorkstrand - Alexander Wennberg - Anthony Duclair

Markus Hannikainen - Riley Nash - Lukas Sedlak

Defense

Zach Werenski - Seth Jones

Ryan Murray - Markus Nutivaara

Scott Harrington - David Savard

Starting Goaltender: Joonas Korpisalo