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Preview: Sabres looking for change of fortune against slumping Oilers

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Both Buffalo and Edmonton are stuck trying to correct course after hot starts to the season

Buffalo Sabres v Edmonton Oilers Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images

Game 42

Buffalo Sabres (17-17-6) vs. Edmonton Oilers (21-17-4)

Puck Drop: 7:00 PM EST | KeyBank Center | Buffalo, NY

TV: MSG-B

Radio: WGR 550

SB Nation Oilers Blog: Copper and Blue

Know Your Opponent

Edmonton Oilers

Record: 21-17-4

Last 10: 3-7

Division Ranking: 4th in Pacific Division

Conference Ranking: 8th in Western Conference

PP: 1st (30.2%)

PK: 5th (83.3%)

What to Watch

1. Correcting Course

The Sabres and Oilers are trying to get back on the winning track after hot starts. Both squads came in hot out of the gate but have struggled as of late. The Oilers have lost 10 of their last 15 games. So have the Sabres (including their current four-game losing streak).

The similarities don’t end with their respective wins and losses. Like Buffalo, Edmonton has relied heavily on their top offensive pieces to produce a majority of their scoring production. Neither team boasts impressive forward depth, and as predicted, they’re finding out that their current makeup isn’t a recipe for sustained success.

2. McDavid and Eichel

No matter how bad their respective teams are, there will always be some added intrigue when the top two picks of the 2015 NHL Draft go head-to-head. Jack Eichel and Connor McDavid are both making cases for the Hart Trophy with impressive individual efforts this season. McDavid currently leads the league with 64 points in 42 games. Eichel currently holds the eighth spot with 53 points in 40 games.

The Oilers are fortunate enough to have another top scorer on their team in Leon Draisaitl (62 points in 42 games). Either way, these two players always seem to elevate their games when they square-off, so that alone is reason enough to tune in.

3. Big Test on Special Teams

The Sabres’ struggles on both the power-play, and penalty-kill have been well documented this season (currently ranked 22nd and 28th, respectively). Tonight they’ll have their hands full against an Oilers squad that boasts arguably the best all-around special teams success in the NHL.

While Buffalo has obviously left a lot to be desired at five-on-five, their lack of production otherwise has held them back in a significant way. That’s really been the difference between these two teams all season. It’s why Edmonton still has a grip (while feeble) on a wild card spot in the Western Conference, while the Sabres play catch up in the east.

Projected Lineups

Buffalo Sabres

Forwards

Victor Olofsson - Jack Eichel - Sam Reinhart

Jimmy Vesey - Marcus Johansson - Conor Sheary

Zemgus Girgensons - Johan Larsson - Kyle Okposo

Colin Miller - Curtis Lazar - Rasmus Asplund

Defense

Jake McCabe - Rasmus Ristolainen

Marco Scandella - Henri Jokiharju

Rasmus Dahlin - Brandon Montour

Starting Goaltender: Carter Hutton

Edmonton Oilers

Forwards

James Neal - Connor McDavid - Zack Kassian

Joakim Nygard - Leon Draisaitl - Kailer Yamamoto

Jujhar Khaira - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Sam Gagner

Riley Sheahan - Gaetan Haas - Josh Archibald

Defense

Oscar Klefbom - Ethan Bear

Darnell Nurse - Kris Russell

William Lagesson - Adam Larsson

Starting Goaltender: TBD