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
Jake McCabe – Rasmus Ristolainen
Brandon Montour – Colin Miller
Rasmus Dahlin – Henri Jokiharju
Lightning Projected Lines:
Alexander Volkov – Steven Stamkos – Nikita Kucherov
Ondrej Palat – Brayden Point – Tyler Johnson
Alex Killorn – Anthony Cirelli – Mathieu Joseph
Yanni Gourde – Cedric Paquette – Luke Witkowski
Ryan McDonagh – Erik Cernak
Mikhail Sergachev – Kevin Shattinkirk
Jan Rutta – Luke Schenn
3 Things To Watch:
1) Swedish Homecoming
The Sabres will have 5 players on the ice tonight who are from Sweden and will look to make a good impression for a rare game in their home country. Not that it’s relevant but the last time the Sabres went overseas for Regular Season NHL Action, they went 2-0 vs. the Kings and Ducks. It’s expected that these guys bring their A-Game every night but the bar will be raised for the likes of Dahlin, Ullmark, Johansson, Larsson, and Olofsson. It would not be shocking to see a few, if not all of these players put up great performances today and this weekend.
2) Offensive Game 5v5
For anyone that follows some of the charts put out by Sean Tierney (@ChartingHockey), the Sabres have slowly trended in the wrong direction in regards to their quality of even strength play relative to the rest of the league. Their xGF% has consistently gone down as the team looks for any signs of life from their offense which has scored a total of 2 goals at even strength in the last 3 games played. Finishing scoring chances has been an issue with the team over the last several games and starting to pile up goals at 5 v 5 is necessary to prevent a skid like what happened to last years’ team.
3) Tampa Bay Defense
Tampa Bay has really struggled out of the gate after their incredible season last year as they sit 5 points out of a playoff spot with a 6-5-2 record and a -3 goal differential. They still boast a ton of talent and will be a difficult test for the Sabres who have dropped 4 of their last 5 games. The Lightning have struggled with giving up goals this year as they have allowed 3.61 per game thus far so this will be a good opportunity for the Buffalo offense to get going. Victor Hedman appears ready to return to the lineup tonight which will be a big addition for a group that already has Erik Cernak and Mikhail Sergachev in it.
Player To Watch – Buffalo
Rasmus Dahlin:. It’s no secret that Dahlin has struggled at times this year both defensively and handling the puck. He’s put up a good number of his points on the Powerplay so it’s not as if he’s been a complete problem for the Sabres this year but the growing pains as teams game plan for him more is definitely showing. Coming off 5 days rest and playing in his home country, there’s no better stage for Dahlin to put his early season woes behind him and play more like the superstar that we all know he’s capable of being.
Player To Watch – Tampa Bay
Nikita Kucherov: Much like the rest of the team compared to last season, Kucherov is off to a slow start having gotten only 11 points in 13 games. The Art Ross trophy winner of 2018-19 is still an elite level talent who the Sabres must defend well or he could easily end up with 3-4 points. Playing alongside Stamkos, Kucherov will look to use his speed, shot, and playmaking ability to make life difficult for the Sabres defense this weekend.
With all of the Swedes that the Sabres have playing, I’m anticipating some inspired hockey will be played and they win this one today. Both teams should be well rested and adjusted to the time change and travel they just experienced so the pace should be very quick. Given the offensive talent that Tampa has combined with some of their issues defensively to start the season, this looks like it could be a high scoring game. I’m going to give the edge to the Sabres today who really need a win to end the current lackluster play we’ve witnessed lately.