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Back In Action

After an eight day break, Buffalo hosts Columbus to kick off the back end of the season.

Columbus Blue Jackets v Buffalo Sabres Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images

Game 46

Buffalo Sabres (14-24-7) vs. Columbus Blue Jackets (21-22-1)

Puck Drop: 7:00 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: (21-22-1) | 43 PTS

Division Ranking: 5th in Metropolitan Division

Last Game: 5-4 win vs. Capitals

PP: 16.2% (26th)

PK: 79.8% (17th)

What To Watch

1. The home stretch begins

After having a few games postponed due to COVID back in December, and the All-Star break taking place last week, Buffalo will have to be mentally and physically prepared to play 37 games in less than three months. After a long road stretch before the All-Star break began, which saw the Sabres go 1-3, they will now return to Buffalo to play four of the next five games at home, starting with the Blue Jackets. While it is unlikely that the Sabres will make the playoffs at this point, it is crucial that they regain chemistry after over a week absence, or they could be in for a long second half of the season.

2. All-Star Dahls

While Buffalo’s season up to this point has had its ups and downs, one positive to look at is the performance of Rasmus Dahlin. After being a highly touted first overall selection by the Sabres back in 2018, and despite many flashy plays in the NHL so far, it felt like there were far more negative moments in Rasmus’s career up until this season.

But this season feels different.

Not only does Dahlin seem to be playing with even more confidence, he is also tied for second on the team with 28 points, and easily leads all skaters with an average of 23:46 TOI. To top it all off, he was selected to his first All-Star game, where he registered a goal and an assist and lead the Atlantic Division in TOI. If Dahlin can use the confidence he’s gained and the respect he’s earned from other players in the league to his advantage, he will likely have a very productive back end of the season, starting on Thursday night.

3. Youth Movement

Similarly to Buffalo, Columbus has also struggled more than they haven’t this season, as they dropped below .500 before the All-Star Break. While times have been tough lately for the two teams, there’s hope on the horizon with both teams having a pool of young impactful prospects.

The Blue Jackets are the second youngest team in the NHL (Buffalo is seventh), and have gotten decent contributions from rookies Cole Sillinger and Yegor Chinakhov who have played in the majority of their games this season. Trey Fix-Wolansky was called up to play in his first NHL game Tuesday against the Capitals and scored his first NHL goal, so he should be in the lineup as well.

It should be a good test to see how two youthful teams fair against each other as an example of what’s to come.

Projected Lineups

Buffalo Sabres

Forwards

Jeff Skinner - Tage Thompson - Alex Tuch

Anders Bjork - Dylan Cozens - Kyle Okposo

Rasmus Asplund - Peyton Krebs - Victor Olofsson

Mark Jankowski - Cody Eakin - John Hayden

Defense

Rasmus Dahlin - Henri Jokiharju

Robert Hagg - Mark Pysyk

Mattias Samuelsson - Casey Fitzgerald

Starting Goaltender: Dustin Tokarski

Columbus Blue Jackets

Forwards

Patrik Laine - Boone Jenner - Gustav Nyquist

Jakub Voracek - Cole Sillinger - Oliver Bjorkstrand

Yegor Chinakhov - Sean Kuraly - Max Domi

Trey Fix-Wolansky - Jack Roslovic - Brendan Gaunce

Defense

Zach Werenski - Andrew Peeke

Vlad Gavrikov - Adam Boqvist

Gavin Bayreuther - Dean Kukan

Starting Goaltender: Elvis Merzlikins (expected)