Sabres Projected Lines:
Victor Olofsson – Jack Eichel – Samson Reinhart
Jeff Skinner – Marcus Johansson – Vladimir Sobotka
Jimmy Vesey – Casey Mittelstadt – Conor Sheary
Zemgus Girgensons – Johan Larsson – Kyle Okposo
Rasmus Dahlin – Brandon Montour
Jake McCabe – Rasmus Ristolainen
Colin Miller – Henri Jokiharju
Islanders Projected Lines:
Anders Lee – Matthew Barzal – Josh Bailey
Anthony Beauvillier – Brock Nelson – Derick Brassard
Michael Dal Colle – Casey Cizikas – Cal Clutterbuck
Ross Johnston – Cole Bardreau – Oliver Wahlstrom
Adam Pelech – Ryan Pulock
Nick Leddy – Johnny Boychuk
Devon Toews – Scott Mayfield
3 Things To Watch:
1) About Last Night….
The Sabres didn’t have a great showing last night, getting drubbed by the Capitals 6-1 in D.C. Tonight offers them no easy victory as the Islanders have bagged eight straight victories, and are fresh off a 5-2 win last night versus the Lightning. It’s yet to be seen how Ralph Krueger and co. respond after facing some adversity, so a good start and finish this evening could be huge for the Sabres in terms of team confidence.
2) It Stops At Eight
As mentioned above, the Islanders are the NHL’s hottest team at the moment. They come to Western New York looking to extend their league-best winning streak. Matt Barzal and Josh Bailey are tied for the team lead in scoring, both having tallied 11 points in 12 games to start the season. Barzal is also riding a three game point streak into tonight’s contest (2G, 2A), so shutting him down will be a huge factor in looking for the W tonight. Buffalo also needs to knock projected starter Semyon Varlamov off his game tonight, as he comes into this evening having won his last four starts. If Buffalo can get Varlamov off his game early, there’s potential for a large scoreline.
3) Welcome Back!
Sabres defenceman Brandon Montour makes his season debut tonight, having missed the first month of the season with a broken hand he sustained in training camp. Montour is hoping to add to a Sabres defense core that has looked much improved from last season. It looks like John Gilmour will sit in place of Montour, although Krueger has kept his lines and defensive pairs close to the vest for this evening. Having practiced with the majority of the defenseman, Montour could potentially slot in nicely beside Colin Miller, which would free him up to jump into the play more often.
Player To Watch – Buffalo
Carter Hutton. After starting the season 6-0-0 with two shutouts, he’s fallen off the past two games, having gone 0-1-1. He’s had some rough bounces not go his way, such as in the Arizona game, but I have a feeling he rights the ship versus the Islanders. If he can get in a groove early on, look out for another stellar performance from the Sabres starter.
Player To Watch – New York
Matthew Barzal. This choice is a no-brainer. As mentioned above, he comes into tonight’s game tied for the team lead in points, and is in a three-game point streak. The Sabres will have to look to shut him down much like they did last season , only giving up two assists in three games. If he can get some space this evening, Buffalo could be in store for a long night.
The key tonight for Buffalo is to rebound positively from last night’s loss. They can make it simple on themselves by getting back to the basics, controlling their breakouts, making smart passes, and not getting overly cute with the puck. I believe the confidence from the 9-3-2 start to the season, coupled with the positive influence that Ralph Krueger has instilled in this group, will have the Sabres ready to take home a victory this evening. Verdict?
4-3 (OT) Sabres.