Buffalo Sabres (20-17-2) vs Winnipeg Jets (26-14-1)
Puck Drop: 7:00 PM EST | KeyBank Center | Buffalo NY
TV: MSG, ESPN+
Radio: WGR 550
SB Nation Jets Blog: Arctic Ice Hockey
Know Your Opponent
Last Game: 7-5 loss at Detroit Red Wings
Division Ranking: 2nd in Central Division
PP: 23.8% (12th)
PK: 82.5% (6th)
What to Watch For
1. Die By The Penalty Kill
After arresting a slump where they went nine straight games conceding goals on the penalty kill, the Sabres have been on again, off again with their penalty kill. They’ve been one of the worse teams shorthanded in the league and sit in 29th place killing penalties at just a 72.4% clip, though over the last four weeks that’s been marginally better at 78.1%.
Again, it’s not like Buffalo are one of the more penalized teams in the league – they are on a 3.84 penalties per 60 min clip which is 14th best (the Jets are at 3.61, good for 9th). They just need to get better at it especially tonight with the Jets scoring at 12th in powerplay scoring, 23.8%.
The special teams battle could decide the game tonight, with the Sabres 2nd best power play going up against Winnipeg’s 82.5% PK, 6th in the league. Both teams have four shorthanded goals this year too.
2. Goaltending Trio
The Sabres are going to go with their three-headed goaltending monster for now as they attempt to address their leaky back-end. Having the trio of Craig Anderson, Eric Comrie and Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen healthy is definitely a bonus right now. All three have had their moments this season, but it gives Don Granato an option to go with the hot hand whenever he can especially with the packed schedule for the next few weeks before the All Star break.
Luukkonen was in line for a start in the loss against Seattle Kraken on Tuesday before taking ill, but it looks like he’s ready to play today with Jack Quinn making the paper transaction to the Amerks to make room for the goalie in the roster. The Finn is in decent form right now with wins in his last six starts, and eight in his last ten going back to the beginning of December with a .902 save percentage and a 3.35 GAA.
We have recalled goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen from @AmerksHockey and loaned forward Jack Quinn to Rochester.
— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) January 12, 2023
3. Score Early, Score Often
The Winnipeg Jets are a good team that are contending for the Central Division title, just three points off the Dallas Stars with a game in hand. They are well-coached by Rick Bowness who has come full circle after starting his coaching career as an assistant on the staff at the original Winnipeg Jets franchise in the mid-80s.
The Jets have the tenth-best offense in the league with 3.34 goals/60 and the fifth-best defense at 2.68 goals/60, and will be smarting after coming off a 7-5 loss at Detroit where the hosts jumped out to a three-goal lead.
We know the Sabres can score a lot, but the Jets are not the kind of team you want to spot a lead because they are very capable of shutting it down. After a better overall performance in the 4-3 defeat against the Krakens following the flat showing against the Philadelphia Flyers the game before that, Granato will want to see the players come out with a jump in their step in the last appearance of the four-game homestand.
Jeff Skinner – Tage Thompson – Alex Tuch
Rasmus Asplund – Dylan Cozens – Vinnie Hinostroza
Zemgus Girgensons – Peyton Krebs – Kyle Okposo
Casey Mittelstadt – Tyson Jost – Victor Olofsson
Mattias Samuelsson – Rasmus Dahlin
Owen Power – Henri Jokiharju
Ilya Lyubushkin – Kale Clague
Goaltenders: Craig Anderson, Eric Comrie, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (projected starter)
Scratches: Jack Quinn, JJ Peterka, Jacob Bryson
Kyle Connor – Pierre-Luc Dubois – Nikolaj Ehlers
Cole Perfetti – Mark Scheifele – Blake Wheeler
Morgan Barron – Adam Lowry – Karson Kuhlman
Axel Jonsson-Fjallby – David Gustafsson – Sam Gagner
Josh Morrissey – Dylan DeMelo
Brenden Dillon – Neal Pionk
Dylan Samberg – Nate Schmidt
Goaltenders: Connor Hellebuyck (projected starter), David Rittich
Scratches: Ville Heinola, Kevin Stenlund, Kyle Capobianco
Injuries: Mason Appleton, Saku Maenalanen, Logan Stanley