Sabres Projected Lines:
Victor Olofsson – Jack Eichel – Sam Reinhart
Jeff Skinner – Evan Rodrigues – Conor Sheary
Jimmy Vesey – Casey Mittelstadt – Curtis Lazar
Zemgus Girgensons – Rasmus Asplund – Kyle Okposo
Jake McCabe – Rasmus Ristolainen
Rasmus Dahlin – Brandon Montour
Marco Scandella – Henri Jokiharju
Senators Projected Lines:
Brady Tkachuk – Logan Brown – Anthony Duclair
Nick Paul – Jean-Gabriel Pageau – Connor Brown
Valdislav Namestnikov – Colin White – Tyler Ennis
Filip Chlapik – Chris Tierney – Bobby Ryan
Thomas Chabot – Nikita Zaitsev
Mark Borowiecki – Dylan Demelo
Erik Brannstrom – Ron Hainsey
3 Things to Watch
Contain Jean-Gabriel Pageau
In the past seven games, JG Pageau has collected eight goals. This is good enough to put Pageau tied for 9th in the NHL in goals. Also, it’s an interesting stat to see Pageau leads the league in +/- at 19 (the next closest is 13), even though Ottawa is the fifth worst team in the league points wise.
Although his goal total is impressive, over this seven game stretch, he hasn’t recorded a single assist. This tells us defenders need to keep a close eye on Pageau when he doesn’t have the puck.
He’s quick and crafty at finding open areas, so his linemates Nick Paul and Connor Brown will likely do the work with the puck. From the goals I’ve seen recently, it’s from slipping away from defenders on rebounds or pucks getting put on net with some kind of scramble. The Sabres will have to get stick-on-stick and body-on-body to prevent Pageau burning them.
This all being said, in 20 games against the Sabres, Pageau only has a single goal and assist for two points. So, if we’re looking historically, maybe he won’t be as much of a factor as expected, but the past is the past. It’s a new year and Pageau is playing very well. For you analytics lovers, here’s his impressive RAPM chart for this season.
Jump on Anderson
The Senators are giving up close to 34 shots a game (33.84), while Anderson is only posting .893 Sv% and 3.33 GAA in 11 games and nine starts. With his team giving up a plethora of shots and Anderson unable to get above .900 Sv%, the gameplan should be simple. Get shots on and bodies to the net. The Sabres see success when they are playing in the dirty areas in front of the net.
Yes, getting to the dirty areas in front of the net might get you a cross check to the ribs or a hack on the ankles, but you don’t need to be a huge team to take on that challenge. Showing grit doesn’t mean having the bigger, badder guys with little skill, it’s about the willingness to take that kind of punishment. Look at a guy like Brendan Gallagher in Montreal for an example of this.
I expect to see the Sabres buzzing around the net tonight. How well they accomplish establishing a net front presence will likely dictate how well they perform offensively.
Need Production from Powerplay
In the last five games, the Sabres are a combined 0 for 12. One of the key players on the powerplay, Jeff Skinner, expressed frustration Thursday night with the lack of success on the man advantage. He and the rest of the team knows if your special teams falters, it takes the wind out of the sails of the team.
The tide of a game can turn with one powerplay goal, but it can turn for the worse if the opposing team is able to put together a strong penalty kill. The ice will tilt back and forth in a hockey game, so the Sabres need to take advantage, especially on the powerplay when their opponent is on their heels.