Buffalo Sabres vs Philadelphia Flyers Game Preview 2/27/2021

Expected Lines

Sabres

Olofsson-Lazar-Reinhart

Hall-Staal-Cozens

Rieder-Eakin-Okposo

Skinner*-Mittelstadt-Sheahan

Dahlin – Miller

Bryson-Ristolainen

Jokiharju-Montour

Hutton

* Unconfirmed, but expected

Flyers

Van Riemsdyk-Couturier-Farabee

Giroux-Hayes-Patrick

Raffl-Bunnaman-Aube-Kubel

Morin-Andreoff-Twarynski

Proverov-Gostisbehere

Sanheim-Myers

Hagg-Gustafsson

Elliot

News and Notes

Jeff Skinner Returns

An interesting quote from Jeff Marek this week on the 31 Thought Podcast with Elliote Friedman provides insight from the outside looking in on the Skinner situation.

As one person told me today, generally, here’s what he believes about scratches like this for players like Jeff Skinner:

The first scratch is a message, the second scratch is punishment, and the third scratch is personal.

Jeff Marek, Co-Host of the 31 Thoughts Podcast with NHL Insider Elliote Friedman and Sportsnet Host

Even with getting into the lineup, Skinner is expected to be buried on the 4th line playing bottom-6 minutes. The steep drop off from his 40-goal campaign in 2018-19 can largely be attributed on where he’s inserted in the lineup.

Skinner – Eichel – Reinhart 5v5 TOI together

2018-19 – 541:21 in 77 games

Ralph Krueger is hired as Head Coach

2019-20 – 79:24 in 58 games

2020 so far – 4:03 in 12 games

Jeff Skinner is a longtime goal-scorer still in the window of his prime making $9 million, yet is getting buried in the bottom-6 for the second straight season. Add a third straight scratch, this is personal, regardless of Krueger’s comments to persuade otherwise. I will not overly criticize Krueger’s decision to sit him once, Skinner hasn’t scored a goal this season and it is on the goal scorer to finish his chances, it is what he’s paid for. That said, refusing to put him where he had success and scratching him three games in a row even after a lengthy call between Skinner’s agent and GM Kevyn Adams? Things are spinning out of control, but a good performance today and hopefully tomorrow, things could get back on track quicker than most imagine.

Ristolainen returns

In some good news, Rasmus Ristolainen will return to the lineup for the first time since the start of February when he contacted COVID-19. Ristolainen’s detailed battle with the virus was scary to hear about and it’s quite shocking to see him back in action so quickly.

Hockey aside, it’s great to see Risto is healthy and back on the ice.

No Eichel

The Sabres find themselves without their captain Jack Eichel for the second straight game. In his place is Curtis Lazar, who is off to a hot start leading the team in 5v5 goals. While the skillsets may be different, expect Lazar to bring energy and simple plays, getting the puck to Reinhart and head straight for the front of the net.

The Sabres will miss Eichel, but if he could play, he would:

Ullmark Injury Update

It was initially announced that Linus Ullmark would likely miss both games this weekend stemming from an injury sustained Thursday night against New Jersey on the play below. After further evaluation, Ralph Krueger announced on Saturday that Ullmark will be out at least a month with his injury.

Carter Hutton will start this afternoon and will most likely be in net tomorrow afternoon as well. Dustin Tokarski and Jonas Johansson were on the ice for practice Friday, one of them will be the backup this afternoon.

While Hutton will take the reigns for now, it’d be surprising if the Sabres didn’t reach into the goaltending market for more help.

Hall-Staal-Cozens

Give some credit to the coaching staff for sticking with Cozens up on a line with Taylor Hall and Eric Staal. After an early season scratch, it appeared the Sabres would take the slow approach with their deployment of rookie Dylan Cozens. Now, it appears he has earned the coaches trust and will continue to play in the top-6.

Cozens plays well beyond his years and who better to continue to learn from than two skilled guys with over 1,900 combined NHL games? This is a near perfect scenario working out right before our eyes.

Rieder-Eakin-Okposo

In the same breath when speaking of keeping lines together, there is a glaring issue with this line. Analytics or eye-test, this line simply do not work.

This is not intended to be an indictment on Okposo, Eakin and especially Rieder. These three are who they are as players and showed what they are as a line. By all accounts, these three are good guys; I do not wise to dispel the importance of veterans and leadership. Those factors considered, there has to be better way to use their presence on this team.

According to MoneyPuck.com, of forward lines with 50 minutes TOI together, they are dead least in xG% (expected goal percentage) at 26.6%. Of all the goals scored while these three are on the ice, 26.6% of them are expected to be goals for and 73.4% are expected to be goals against based on shot quality. Basically, they give up a ton and they produce very little.

Most players do not choose who they play with, directing the attention to the coaching staff as to why this line remains together. Energy lines aren’t always the most efficient lines, but I question their ability to be effective as an energy line, while being one of, if not the least efficient lines in the league.

Prediction

The Sabres need to start collecting two points multiple games in a row. Finding the back of the net will be hard without Eichel’s playmaking and Ullmark’s ability to bail the team out recently. Also, Philadelphia was missing arguable their best forward in Sean Couturier the first two games the Sabres and Flyers played.

4-1 Flyers.

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