Buffalo Sabres vs New Jersey Devils Game Preview 2/23/2021

Expected Lines

Sabres

Olofsson-Eichel-Reinhart

Hall-Staal-Cozens

Asplund-Eakin-Okposo

Lazar-Sheahan-Mittelstadt

Dahlin-Miller

Jokiharju-Irwin

Bryson-Montour

Hutton

Ullmark

Devils

Zacha-Hischier-Bratt

Johnsson-Hughes-Palmieri

Maltsev-Zajac-Gusev

Wood-McLeod-Bastian

Murray-Subban

Smith-Severson

Kulikov-Vatanen

Dell/Wedgewood/Blackwood

** Lines based off NJ last game against the Capitals

News and Notes

Asplund in for Rieder… But what about Skinner?

It was expected that Jeff Skinner’s time out of the lineup would be coming to an end following Tobias Reider’s injury against the Islanders. Yet when Ralph Krueger met with the media this afternoon, that wasn’t the case. Rasmus Asplund — up from the taxi squad — will be slotting in for Rieder.

Krueger did not stray from his narrative throughout this whole process; he insists Skinner will be better off from watching a few games in the press box. While this is somewhat a norm in hockey, it’s a questionable method for pushing the modern athlete. It’s questionable how this will result in more 5v5 scoring like Krueger’s looking for, rather than more offensive zone starts or an extensive look outside the bottom six.

Regardless, this Skinner situation has now become a thing. Not many would’ve batted an eye at a one-game benching that saw Skinner right back in the lineup 24 hours later. The Sabres had a vacant position and went out of their way to call up a player from the taxi squad rather than play Skinner. It’s only a matter of time before this starts drawing bigger questions.

Casey Mittelstadt making his case

Mittelstadt is in a crucial year in his development, the Sabres need to see if he has any shot at being an NHL forward. He’s played limited minutes this year but hasn’t look out of place, the forward has two assists and was pretty solid against the Islanders with a 55.94 xGF%.

On the season his underlying numbers aren’t great, but he’s generated chances and brings more to the lineup than some of the other players on the team. Now is the time for Ralph and the organization to see if they have something in Mittelstadt, and maybe provide some youth to a lineup that desperately needs a jump.

Favorable Matchup for Sabres Offense

The talk of the season has been the Sabres lack of 5v5 offence, but this matchup is one that favors the Sabres.

In their previous 3 matchups the Sabres have a combined 55.23 xGF% (best against any opponent this season). The Sabres have generated 31 HDCF (most against any opponent) and have five high-danger goals for (most against any opponent).

Buffalo has managed to score goals every time they play New Jersey, they seem to always have a good performance in this matchup, so they’ll be hoping this trend continues because they need a win in the worst way.

Will Borgen to miss time

News broke that Will Borgen underwent surgery on his forearm and will miss 6-8 weeks, the Sabres defence looked really good with him in the lineup and will need others to step up if they want any chance of saving the season.

The Sabres are in the midst of an unlucky season off the ice, and Borgen’s injury adds to McCabe’s injruy and Ristolainen’s health problems due to COVID. The Sabres defensive depth will be put to the test now and Adams may be forced into making a move.

Jacob Bryson expected to make NHL debut

The Sabres announced late this afternoon that Jacob Bryson, along with Rasmus Asplund, have been called up from the Taxi squad. Defenseman Brandon Davidson was sent down in his place and Bryson is expected to make his NHL debut against the Devils.

The 23 year old defenseman has long been a fan favorite of a handful of our TCB contributors from his days anchoring the Providence Friars blue line in the NCAA. Bryson adds a quick-strike, transition style of play to the Sabres’ back-end and would have no trouble running the 2nd power play unit if called upon.

Bryson had 27 points in 61 games in his rookie season with the Amerks.

Prediction

Given the Sabres previous matchups against the Devils, I think this game comes down to goaltending.

I expect the Sabres to score at least 3-goals in this game, and I think the coaching staff does too. Given the Sabres previous matchups against NJ I wouldn’t expect a blowout…it’ll be a close game that comes down to the end.

5-4 New Jersey.

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