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Buffalo Sabres vs. Detroit Red Wings Preview Game #68

Jan 27, 2024; San Jose, California, USA; Buffalo Sabres right wing JJ Peterka (77) celebrates with center Dylan Cozens (24) after scoring a goal against the San Jose Sharks during the third period at SAP Center at San Jose. Mandatory Credit: Robert Edwards-USA TODAY Sports

Buffalo Sabres (32-30-5) vs. Detroit Red Wings (33-27-6)

Puck Drop: 12:30PM EST, Little Ceasars Arena, MI

TV: MSG-B

Radio: WGR-550

Know Your Opponent 

Detroit Red Wings 

Record: 33-27-6

Last Game: 4-1 Loss to the Arizona Coyotes 

Division Ranking: 5th, Atlantic 

PP: 23%, 10th 

PK: 80.7%, 7th

What To Watch:

  1. Continue Letting the Wheel Spin Out of Control  

The Detroit Red Wings are in a very tense situation. Leading up to the trade deadline, they had made themselves some wiggle room ahead of the other teams pushing for a wildcard spot. With confidence that his team could hold their position and break into the playoffs for the first time during his tenure as GM, Steve Yzerman decided to be very inactive. He may be regretting that decision now. All season, there have been discussions about how lucky the Red Wings have been. There is plenty of statistical evidence that is now coming to fruition. For example, Detroit has one of the highest disparities between their expected goals at 5v5 compared to their actual goals at 5v5 being +31.24, meaning that they are scoring way more than they are supposed to. This afternoon, the Sabres are in a position to drag Detroit down and show the league that even though the season did not go as planned, they are the brightest young team in the Atlantic Division. 

  1.  Stingy For, Shooting Gallery Against (Red Wings)

Perhaps aligning with their puck luck, the Red Wings have another severe imbalance in their play style. At even strength, Detroit does not take a huge amount of shots on goal. When they do, the majority of them are from low-danger areas on the ice. They rank one of the lowest teams in the league in shots on goal from high-danger and medium-danger areas. However, when it comes to shots against, therein lies the imbalance. They are one of the league leaders in shots against at 5v5. They allow a massive amount of shots, giving up some of the lowest high-danger and medium-danger shots in the NHL but some of the most low-danger shots. This tells us a couple of things about their playstyle and strategies toward generating offence and defending. 

  1. They defend the middle of the ice by collapsing and letting the other team take opportunities from the outside 
  2. They feel that they can outscore opponents based on sheer superior shooting skill 
  3. They are an opportunistic team 

What this means for the Sabre’s offence is that they will have to a) allow some of the premier young defencemen to fire the puck from the point and trust that they can get the job done, b) create chaos as they collapse in hopes of finding the open man, and c) 

What this means for the Sabre‚Äôs defence is that they will have to a) trust that their goaltending can handle the long-distance shooters on Detroit, b) collapse and let them shoot from the outside, and c) be prepared for their opportunistic offensive methods that likely stem from rush chances and quick transition. 

  1. Playing the Villain in Detroit 

The Sabres have the opportunity to once again play the villain against teams that are pushing for a playoff spot. The Red Wings have now fallen out of a playoff spot. If the Sabres continue Detroit on this tailspin down the standings, there are serious implications toward playoff odds. According to moneypuck.com, this game has major significance for both teams. If the Red Wings win, they increase their playoff odds by 8.2% to 35.2%. If they lose, their odds decrease by 7% to 19.9%. If the Sabres win, their small yet not impossible chance at a playoff push moves up 3.3% to 11.7%. If they lose in regulation, they move down 4.5% to 3.9%, essentially shutting down any resurgence. However slim these odds are for the Sabres, keeping the season alive should be a source of pride for the young core. Unfortunately, the Sabres organization has become used to losing. This is something that is very hard to overcome. It started with last years push toward the playoffs, and it continues this season by showing that losing is uncomfortable to them. Tonight is another chance to prove to some of the most loyal fans in all of pro sports that this core is worth believing in, by crushing the playoff aspirations of another die-hard fanbase. 

Projected Lines 

Buffalo Sabres 

Forwards 

Girgensons – Thompson – Tuch 

Greenway – Cozens – Benson

Skinner – Krebs – Peterka 

Robinson – Jost – Olofsson 

Defence 

Byram – Dahlin 

Power – Jokiharju 

Bryson – Clifton

Projected Starter: Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen 

Detroit Red Wings 

Forwards 

Debrincat – Compher – Kane 

Perron – Veleno – Raymond 

Rasmussen – Copp – Fischer 

Fabbri – Czarnik – Sprong

Defence 

Gostisbehere – Seider 

Chiarot – Petry 

Maata – Holl 
Projected Starter: James Reimer

Talking Points