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Preview: Red Hot Blue Jackets visit struggling Sabres

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Buffalo looking for first victory since All Star break

NHL: Buffalo Sabres at Columbus Blue Jackets Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Game 52

Buffalo Sabres (22-22-7) vs. Columbus Blue Jackets (27-16-8)

Puck Drop: 1:00 PM EST | KeyBank Center | Buffalo, NY

TV: MSG-B

Radio: WGR 550

SB Nation Blue Jackets Blog: The Cannon

Know Your Opponent

Columbus Blue Jackets

Record: 27-16-8 | 62 PTS

Last 10: 8-2-0

Division Ranking: 4th in the Metropolitan Division

Conference Ranking: 6th in the Eastern Conference

PP: 23rd (17.7%)

PK: 11th (81.9%)

What to Watch

1. Duane 2020

Thanks to the Sabres organization continuing to torture their fans year after disappointing year, WGR 550 endured a memorable caller this week in Duane Steinel. The longtime, dedicated fan went on the best rant since Jeremy White and Howard Simon last year and his few minutes on the air proved to be way more entertaining than the entire 2019-2020 season. So, if the game against the Blue Jackets starts to go downhill, there’s always giving Duane a listen if you haven’t yet. Trust me, you won’t be sorry.

2. Looking for a Pulse

There have been many common themes this season - lack of effort, lack of talent, lack of grit, etc. Among those is also the lack of shots. In their last game - an eye-rolling loss against Montreal on Thursday night - Buffalo tallied only 10 shots on goal in two periods against an elite goaltender in Carey Price. The only Sabre to score was, of course, captain Jack. The star forward is arguably having his best season yet and his goal against the Habs was his 30th of the season - a career high. He has earned himself an impressive 64 points since October, so it’s no surprise why he showed his frustration by breaking his stick on the visiting team’s net following an empty net goal. Terry Pegula, are you listening yet? Jack does everything and it’s nowhere near enough. It may be time to reunite him with former line-mate Jeff Skinner. Does this do anything for depth? No. But, at this point, what has the team got to lose?

3. Ready and Well-Rested Visitors

Columbus has yet to play a game since before the All Star break and their first match-up will be against the Sabres on Saturday afternoon. Prior to the break, they were tied with the Florida Panthers for the longest active winning streak in the NHL at six consecutive games. The Blue Jackets are 15-2-2 in their last 19 games. Good luck, Buffalo.

Projected Lineup Based on Practice

Buffalo Sabres

Forwards

Jimmy Vesey - Jack Eichel - Sam Reinhart

Jeff Skinner - Marcus Johansson - Michael Frolik

Zemgus Girgensons - Johan Larsson - Conor Sheary

Evan Rodrigues - Curtis Lazar - Jean-Sebastian Dea

Defense

Lawrence Pilut - Rasmus Ristolainen

Rasmus Dahlin - Henri Jokiharju

Jake McCabe - Colin Miller

Zach Bogosian missed practice on Friday afternoon due to illness and Brandon Montour had a maintenance day.

Starting Goaltender: Carter Hutton (expected)

Columbus Blue Jackets

Forwards

Nick Foligno - Pierre-Luc Dubois - Oliver Bjorkstrand

Gustav Nyquist - Alexander Wennberg - Cam Atkinson

Nathan Gerbe - Boone Jenner - Emil Bemstrom

Jakob Lilja - Riley Nash - Eric Robinson

Defense

Zach Werenski - Seth Jones

Vadislav Gavrikov - David Savard

Scott Harrington - Markus Nutivaara

Starting Goaltender: Elvis Merzlikins (expected)