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Preview: Sabres square off with leaky Oilers

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McDavid vs Eichel still has little lustre as teams struggle for success

NHL: Edmonton Oilers at Buffalo Sabres Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Game 46

Buffalo Sabres (23-16-6) vs Edmonton Oilers (21-21-3)

Puck Drop: 9:00 PM EST | Rogers Place | Edmonton, AB

TV: MSG-B

Radio: WGR 550

SB Nation Oilers Blog:Copper and Blue

Know Your Opponent

Edmonton Oilers

Record: (21-21-3) | 45 PTS

Last 10: 3-7-0

Division Ranking: 6th in Pacific Division

Conference Ranking: 11th in Western Conference

PP: 14th (20.8%)

PK: 23rd (77.0%)

What to Watch

  1. Return of the Mac

After missing yesterday’s team skills competition, it is reported that phenom and captain Connor McDavid will be in the lineup.

Most people remember McDavid as the impetus of the original tank - a race to the bottom the Edmonton ultimately won. The net gains have been surprisingly poor, though; while McDavid’s 27 goals (T-5th) and 67 points (4th) are among the top in the league, Edmonton as a whole is failing to put together a solid season. The superstar’s contributions have not been enough to lift the team out of mediocrity. Sound familiar?

Still, McDavid is top-3 in goals created, and is a constant threat anytime he’s on the ice. Toss in an IV chock-full of vitamins and who knows what McJesus will have in store.

2. Breakin’

The Sabres have not yet gone three consecutive games without pulling a point in the standings. They’ve lost three in a row, but not in regulation.

Tonight is a different test for the team, though. The time-change is perhaps one; the perception that the team should win against a team that is nearly 10 points lower in the standings is perhaps the most difficult.

The Sabres will have to engage the counter-attack that has been successful at different times throughout the season. They’ll need to break some bad habits they’ve developed, and especially break out of the zone quicker, if they hope to break the streak.

3. Y-Eichel

Speaking of shouldering an unreasonable load, Jack Eichel has been the impetus behind much of the team’s success. If a player is struggling, put him with Jack. If a player is on a pointless streak, put him with Jack. If a player is looking for a long-term deal at $8+ mill a year, put hi...well...you get the idea.

The truth is, though, that Eichel himself is scoreless in five games, and hasn’t had a goal since December 16. The team’s record in that time is 4-8. Eichel missed a few games in there, but the point is made.

Whether it’s fair to Eichel or not, the Sabres live and die on his ability to produce. There’s no time like the present for the young star to get hot.

Buffalo Sabres

Forwards

Jeff Skinner - Jack Eichel - Sam Reinhart

Conor Sheary - Casey Mittelstadt - Tage Thompson

Vladimir Sobotka - Evan Rodrigues - Jason Pominville

Zemgus Girgensons - Johan Larsson - Kyle Okposo

Defense

Jake McCabe - Rasmus Ristolainen

Zach Bogosian- Rasmus Dahlin

Marco Scandella - Nathan Beaulieu

Starting Goaltender: Carter Hutton

Edmonton Oilers

Forwards

Leon Draisaitl - Connor McDavid - Ty Rattie

Milan Lucic - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Alex Chiasson

Ryan Spooner - Kyle Brodziak - Jesse Puljujarvi

Tobias Reider - Jujhar Khaira - Zack Kassian

Defense

Darnell Nurse - Kris Russel

Caleb Jones - Adam Larsson

Brandon Manning - Matt Benning

Starting Goaltender: Mikko Koskinen