Expected Starter: Ullmark
**Game-time decisions: McCabe, Montour, Rieder. **
New York Islanders
News and Notes:
COVID Update — Reinhart, Rieder, Montour, McCabe
The puck will finally drop for the Buffalo Sabres in the month of February with a Presidents Day battle against the New York Islanders. The story of course will be that of COVID-19 which still has four remaining Sabres players on the COVID list in Cozens, Mittelstadt, Lazar, and Ristolainen as of morning skate today. Ralph Krueger will return behind the bench after testing positive with the virus previously.
Brandon Montour, Jake McCabe and Toby Rieder will be game-time decisions after being activated off of the COVID-19 protocol list.
The other keynote to morning skate was the absence of Sam Reinhart who has practiced in full since his injury against the Devils in the last Sabres games before the unplanned break. Reinhart is also a game-time decision to play, but Krueger sounded optimistic.
Red Hot Barzal/Lee
It should not be a surprise to anyone that the player who has been carrying the Islanders on offense is Matt Barzal who is riding an 8-game point streak into Buffalo where he has 4 goals and 6 assists while playing primarily with their primary shot taker in Andres Lee. Lee is 3rd in the NHL in Individual High-Danger Corsi for with 32 attempts (he is also 3rd rate adjusted for players over 68 TOI on the season). Playing with an elite playmaker in Barzal helps Lee find shots from the slot as players gravitate towards the elite skater. Sabres will need to stick to their assignments to stop this duo.
The Islanders will do everything in their power to get their top pairing of Pulock and Pelech on the ice against Jack Eichel. While the Bruins perfection line scored twice against the Islanders on Sunday, Pulock/Pelech controlled the Shots/60 when matched up with the Bruins top unit according to HockeyViz and stayed even for +/- on the game. They were clearly being deployed to stop the unit at 5v5.
This could be part of the reason the Sabres split up Hall and Eichel tonight as they want to attack some of the weaker defensive Islanders with one of their top players. This will be a chess match all night between Trots and Krueger.
Steven Fogarty’s Potential Sabres Debut
The Amerks captain gets his first chance in Buffalo tonight baring an unexpected twist. The 27-year-old former Ranger has yet to tally a single point in the NHL in his 18-game career and I’m not expecting many minutes for the emergency call up. That being said, he has been a productive AHL player in the past and I’ll be rooting for the journeyman to find his first in the NHL tonight.
Prediction/Betting Notes (Odds from DraftKings & Fanduel SportsBook)
For those who do not follow me individually (@dj_mitchell94), I host two podcasts on Daily Fantasy and general NHL gambling. As New York pushes to legalize sportsbook betting for all I will be adding a few props I will be betting on.
Tonight, I am expecting a low scoring battle and the odds agree with the 5.5 O/U favoring the under. The Sabres seem to be a smart bet at home as the Islanders have struggled on the road and the Sabres should be well rested and hungry going into tonight’s match. My score prediction is 3-1 Sabres with an empty net goal to seal it, which is +2500 (or $1 bet turns into $26 return). I think it could just as easily sway the other way with the Sabres missing 3 defenseman in their top 6.
Rasmus Dahlin O 2 SOG -136 (That’s nearly a lock on FanDuel)
Andres Lee O 2.5 SOG -143 (Lee has gone 3+SOG in 8 straight games)