New York Rangers at Buffalo Sabres Game Preview 1/28/21

Expected Lines: 

Sabres 

Hall – Eichel – Reinhart 

Olofsson – Staal – Cozens 

Rieder – Eakin – Okposo 

Skinner – Lazar – Sheahan 

McCabe – Ristolainen 

Dahlin – Miller

Irwin – Montour

Ullmark

Rangers

Kreider – Zibanejad – Buchnevich

Panarin – Strome – Di Giuseppe

Lafreneire – Howden – Kakko

Lemieux – Blackwell – Rooney 

Lindgren – Fox

Miller – Trouba

Johnson – DeAngelo

Shesterkin

News and Notes:

Jokiharju Out, Irwin In

The Sabres had their defensive depth tested for the first time this season when free agent signing Matt Irwin stepped in for Henri Jokiharju on Tuesday against the Rangers. Coach Ralph Krueger noted this morning that despite the injury being minor, Jokiharju isn’t quite ready to return to the lineup. 

Irwin was fantastic in his Sabres debut alongside Brandon Montour — Irwin recorded a 67.37 xGF% and 52.63 CF% according to data from Natural Stat-Trick. He brought an element of poise and consistency that we haven’t seen from the Sabres back-end depth in the past few years.

We’ll look for him to follow up that performance tonight.

Power Play 🔥

The Sabres’ star-studded power-play has been as advertised through the first seven games of the year. A season ago, the addition of Victor Olofsson’s one-time threat, opposite of Jack Eichel, appeared to propel the Sabres top-unit to a new level of threatening. Despite a strong start, the Sabres finished 19th in the league with the man-advantage last season. 

So far this season, the Sabres power play has been strong at both creating and capitalizing on scoring chances. Within the NHL, the Sabres’ power play ranks 5th in Expected Goals-For and 8th in PP%.  

While the addition of Taylor Hall has certainly added another weapon to the team’s top-unit, a big reason for success this year is due to the play of the second unit. Headlined by rookie Dylan Cozens in the slot/bumper position, Eric Staal on the half-wall and Miller/Ristolainen quarterbacking and letting shots fly, the Sabres finally seem to have an adequate rotation at 5-on-4. 

Ullmark back in the crease

Linus Ullmark is expected to make his fourth straight start in the crease.

It’s been an up-and-down start to the season for Ullmark. We’ve seen flashes of brilliance, like in overtime against Washington, yet he’s allowed 8 goals on 5.07 expected-goals so far this season according to Natural Stat-Trick.

Prediction: 

If the Sabres are able to carry a lead into the third period similar to last game, it’ll be interesting to see how they go about defending it. It was a bit alarming last game when the Sabres sat back in the third period after dominating play through the first 40 minutes. If they do establish a lead tonight, expect them to be a bit more aggressive. 

If you’re a consistent follower of our previews, a trending theme is to pick Sabres players to score that still haven’t done so. After Eichel scored his first a few games ago, the attention turns to Jeff Skinner. He’s been around the net a lot and is due for one sooner rather than later. We’ll say he gets it tonight. 

Sabres win big, 5-2. 

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