Buffalo Sabres (30-28-8) vs Chicago Blackhaws (27-30-9)
Puck Drop: 8:30 PM EST | United Center | Chicago, IL
Radio: WGR 550
SB Nation Blackhawks Blog: Second City Hockey
Know Your Opponent
Record: (27-30-9) | 63 PTS
Last 10: 4-6-0
Division Ranking: 7th in Central Division
Conference Ranking: 12th in Western Conference
PP: 10th (21.9%)
PK: 31st (72.8%)
What to Watch
Stoppable force meets movable object
If your team is struggling to score, Chicago is one club that has a solution to that problem. Only the Ottawa Senators have allowed more goals against - 251 to the Blackhawks’ 250. They’ve allowed 47 goals in the last 10 games; including 19 in the last four.
This is fantastic news for Buffalo. With a team goals against of 3.20, 4.7 goals will secure a win for the blue and gold.
Unfortunately, the Sabres’ goals-for fails to meet expectations on most nights. The Sabres are just outside of the bottom-third of the league in goals per game with 2.88. Chicago averages 3.33.
This quick study of the numbers is not good for the Sabres. On any given night, anything can happen, of course, but through 66 games, Chicago has proven to be able to score better than Buffalo, even if they are a little worse at stopping the puck.
Engine, Engine Number 9
Coming down Chicago line. If the train falls off the track...of course it won’t because of Jack.
Some are quick to place the blame for the Sabres’ team woes on the shoulders of captain Jack Eichel. The fact is that the star has been the catalyst for any measure of the team’s success to this point.
Even with a despicable record of 2-7-1 in the last 10 games, Eichel has 11 points in that time (7 goals, 4 assists).
There is no question that Eichel and linemate Skinner carry the bulk of the Sabres’ offensive load, and that Jack drives that success, frequently dishing to Skinner when he’s not scoring himself. Throw in Sam Reinhart, and the Sabres have a solid top line. But...that’s where they run out of steam. Without these three players on the ice, Buffalo’s goals-for percentage is 39.29.
Eichel has been fantastic - generating shots, retaining possession, making great passes, and scoring some breathtaking goals. At some point, though, someone’s got to shovel more coals on the bottom nine. Jack can’t be the only player pushing full-steam ahead.
Ineffective. Inept. Incapable. Adjectives we’re used to hearing, but in this instance, they accurately describe the Blackhawks’ penalty kill.
The team is allowing goals on nearly 28 percent of the opponents opportunities. It is a blessing for a Sabres team that is desperate for scoring at any strength.
They don’t ask how, they ask how many, and the Sabres need to put many past the Blackhawks. The power play is a fantastic time to do so - it’s Buffalo’s best chance to pull two points from a team that embarrassed them 7-3 in their last meeting.
Jeff Skinner - Jack Eichel - Sam Reinhart
Conor Sheary - Evan Rodrigues - Kyle Okposo
Zemgus Girgensons - Johan Larsson - Tage Thompson
Scott Wison - Casey Mittelstadt - Jason Pomminville
Marco Scandella- Rasmus Ristolainen
Rasmus Dahlin - Casey Nelson
Zach Bogosian - Brandon Montour
Starting Goaltender: Carter Hutton
Brandon Saad - Jonathan Toews - John Hayden
Alex DeBrincat- Dylan Strome- Brendan Perlini
Dominik Kahun- Artem Anisimov- Patrick Kane
Chris Kunitz- David Kampf- Marcus Kruger
Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook
Gustav Forsling - Connor Murphy
Slater Koekkoek - Erik Gustafsson
Starting Goaltender: Corey Crawford