clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Buffalo look to take advantage of softer schedule

Starts today against Eastern Conference bottom team Blue Jackets

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

San Jose Sharks v Buffalo Sabres
Dylan Cozens
Photo by Joe Hrycych/NHLI via Getty Images

Game 26

Buffalo Sabres (11-13-1) at Columbus Blue Jackets (8-14-2)

Puck Drop: 7:30 PM EST | Nationwide Arena | Columbus OH

TV: TNT

Radio: WGR 550

SB Nation Blue Jackets Blog: The Cannon

Know Your Opponent

Columbus Blue Jackets

Record: 8-14-2

Last Game: 4-1 loss vs Pittsburgh Penguins

Division Ranking: 8th in Metropolitan Division

PP: 14.3% (32nd)

PK: 77.9% (18th)

What to Watch For

1. Die By The Penalty Kill

We’re really going to keep banging this drum until something changes, but the Sabres have to get better shorthanded if they are going to achieve absolutely anything this season. While the return of Mattias Samuelsson has certainly stabilized things defensively, Buffalo are still giving up way too many goals on the penalty kill.

Here are the number of shorthanded opportunities, with goals against, in the last few games, starting with the win over the San Jose Sharks over the weekend - 1 for 1 (W), 3 for 6 (L), 0 for 7 (W), 3 for 4 (L), 0 for 1 (L), 1 for 3 (W), 0 for 6 (W). When the Sabres give up more than one goal on the penalty kill, they usually don’t come away winners. During that 8-game losing streak, they gave up 11 goals in 25 attempts - it’s no coincidence that with players getting back to fitness after injuries that number has gotten better, but there’s still room for improvement.

Against Columbus’ anemic power play, the Sabres have a good opportunity to keep the hosts off the scoreboard tonight. With coach Brad Larsen rolling out his top line for 20+ minutes a night and giving his fourth line second line minutes, Buffalo’s third line really needs to be better too as the revolving door / traffic cone act is getting pretty old, but that’s a topic for another day.

2. Take The Over, Trust Me

The Sabres last four games have all had nine or more total goals. Buffalo have scored 44 goals in their last ten games. Columbus are giving up nearly four goals per game played, with the Sabres not far behind. The over/under for the game is set at 6.5 goals, so if you were a betting person you really should take the over here.

Of course, now watch the two teams play out a grindfest with the game settled by the odd goal in three or something like that .

3. Our Country Cousin

What is there left to say about Dylan Cozens that hasn’t already been said? The 21-year-old has taken just about every projection made for him this season, and ground them to dust. Selected seventh overall in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, the forward had 38 points in 79 games last season, and is just a hair shy of a point per game pace this season with 9 goals and 15 assists in 25 games.

He might be quiet and mostly understated, but the ‘Workhorse from Whitehorse’ lets his play do the talking on the ice. His offensive output was not quite expected this season, but his five multi-point nights in the last dozen games (including in each of the last three) are a big reason why the Sabres are the second highest scoring team in the league with 3.80 goals per game.

Cozens was a very deserving NHL Second Star of the Week behind only Conor McDavid. He centers the first power play unit, logs time on the penalty kill, leads the incredible second line, is always willing and ready to drop the gloves or do the dirty work, and the rest of the league is only just starting to see what the Yukon-native is all about.

Buffalo coach Don Granato is clearly a big fan -

“Just couple that with love of the game that he has. He competes for the right reason being in a team sport. He brings guys in with him, he drags people into the fight, per se, which is a real indicator of his leadership and leadership ability going forward.”

Projected Lineups

Buffalo Sabres

Forwards

Jeff Skinner - Tage Thompson - Alex Tuch

Jack Quinn - Dylan Cozens - JJ Peterka

Casey Mittelstadt - Tyson Jost - Victor Olofsson

Zemgus Girgensons - Peyton Krebs - Kyle Okposo

Defense

Mattias Samuelsson - Rasmus Dahlin

Owen Power - Henri Jokiharju

Jacob Bryson - Casey Fitzgerald

Goaltenders: Craig Anderson, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (projected starter)

Scratches: , Rasmus Asplund, Kale Clague, Lawrence Pilut

Injuries: Eric Comrie, Ilya Lyubushkin, Vinnie Hinostroza

Columbus Blue Jackets

Forwards

Patrik Laine - Boone Jenner - Johnny Gaudreau

Gus Nyquist - Jack Roslovic - Kent Johnson

Yegor Chinakhkov - Cole Sillinger - Kirill Marchenko

Eric Robinson - Sean Kuraly - Mathieu Olivier

Defense

Vladislav Gavrikov - Marcus Bjork

Jake Christiansen - Erik Gudbranson

Gavin Bayreuther - Andrew Peeke

Goaltenders: Elvis Merzlikins, Joonas Korpisalo (projected starter)

Scratches:

Injuries: Adam Boqvist, Justin Danforth, Zach Werenski, Jake Beane, Jakub Voracek, Nick Blankenburg