Sabres Projected Lines
Victor Olofsson – Jack Eichel – Sam Reinhart
Jeff Skinner – Marcus Johansson – Vladimir Sobotka
Jimmy Vesey – Casey Mittelstadt – Conor Sheary
Zemgus Girgensons – Johan Larsson – Kyle Okposo
Rasmus Dahlin – Henri Jokiharju
Jake McCabe – Rasmus Ristolainen
Marco Scandella – Colin Miller
Sharks Projected Lines
Timo Meier – Logan Couture – Patrick Marleau
Evander Kane – Tomas Hertl – Kevin Labanc
Marcus Sorensen – Joe Thornton – Barlclay Goodrow
Melker Karlsson – Dylan Gambrell – Noah Gregor
Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Brent Burns
Brenden Dillon – Erik Karlsson
Mario Ferraro – Tim Heed
3 Things To Watch:
1. San Jose Penalty Kill
San Jose is currently 4th in the NHL with a 91.7% Penalty Kill and will be a tough task for the Sabres powerplay which has cooled off as of late. Over the last 4 games, they have gone 3/16 which is still a respectable 18.7% so it should be entertaining to see two of the better Special Teams units in the league go head to head. Can anyone stop Victor Olofsson from scoring on the powerplay? He will look to add to his league leading 6 goals with the man advantage tonight while the unit as a whole attempts to maintain it’s above average efficiency.
2. Improved 5 on 5 play from the 1st Line
I don’t want to discredit anything the 1st line has done thus far but I do think they have not reached their true potential, especially at 5 on 5. The top line of Eichel, Reinhart and Olofsson has looked dangerous but have scored 5 goals for at even strength and given up 5. When all 3 players are not on the ice at 5 on 5, the Sabres have scored 11 goals for and given up 4 at even strength so cumulatively, the other 3 lines are having a greater net impact 5v5. The shot attempts for/against also show an edge to the opponent when the first line is on the ice so there is room for them to improve in how effective they have been overall. I think the time is getting closer that Olofsson comes off of the 1st line for even strength minutes to see if more production can come with Eichel and Reinhart on the ice together with someone else, perhaps Skinner. I do believe Reinhart would be best served playing away from Eichel though but it’s clear Krueger is still getting a feel for what he has on this roster.
3. Close out the West Coast trip on a high note
After the 1st period in Los Angeles, the Sabres continued to let the Kings come at them and generate shot after shot while Hutton stood tall in net en route to his first shutout of the season. It will be important for this team to show that they are not regressing to the mean in terms of shot rates and expected GF/GA, and play a full 60 minutes. A game reminiscent to the season opener is what I’m hoping for and if that’s the case, they should be able to secure another win and come home with 4 out of 6 possible points on this trip which is very respectable. Buffalo will head back late Saturday night for a “home and home” with the Sharks on Tuesday so there could be some bad blood that boils over into that game.
Players to watch
Sharks – Evander Kane
Fresh off a 1st period hat trick Wednesday night, Kane will be playing in his 3rd game against the Sabres since being traded away 2 seasons ago and has not scored a goal in the prior two. Kane has 4 goals and 2 assists in 4 games played this year after missing the first 3 games of the season due to a suspension from his actions (abuse of official) in a preseason game. A power forward in the truest sense, Kane scored 30 goals for the 2nd time in his career last season and appears to be on track to match and even beat that production from last season.
Sabres – Casey Mittelstadt
Mittelstadt scored his first 3 point game of his career against the Kings after going pointless in the 6 games since the season opener against Pittsburgh. He’s a player who looked like he was struggling after the Pittsburgh game but as of the last 2 games has started to have a more positive impact on the ice. Albeit the 3rd line has had limited minutes the last 2 games at 5 on 5 (6:54 avg), Mittelstadt is flashing some of the skill and speed that helped get him drafted in the top 10. At this point in his career, it’s all about development and consistency so I am looking for him to build off of his 3 point night and contribute at least 1 point against San Jose.