Buffalo Sabres vs Philadelphia Flyers Game Preview 3/9/2021

Expected Lines

Sabres

Hall – Cozens – Reinhart

Olofsson – Staal – Sheahan

Skinner – Lazar – Mittelstadt

Reider – Eakin – Okposo

Thompson*

*Called up from practice squad

Irwin – Ristolainen

Bryson – Montour

Dahlin – Miller

Hutton/Johansson

Isles

Van Riemsdyk – Couturier – Farabee

Laughton – Hayes – Konecny

Voracek – Giroux – Patrick

Lindblom – Bunnaman – Aube-Kobel

Gostisbehere – Provorov

Braun – Gustafsson

Myers – Sanheim

Hart

Eichel Injured

Jack Eichel was not participating in practice and was announced as having an upper body injury. It’s been clear for a while that Eichel has been battling some ailment and it looks as if he may be out an extended amount of time per Elliotte Friedman.

Losing the face of the franchise for any duration of time would be a crushing blow to a team that cannot afford anymore issues. The loss of Eichel does force Dylan Cozens into the 1st line Center role where he excelled at the junior level. Look for Cozens to generate some instant chemistry with Hall and Reinhart.

It is time for a change

Echoing what Sabres fans have been pleading for many weeks now, changes must be made. After getting swept by the Islanders in 3 consecutive games by the same score of 5-2, the morale of this team is hanging on by a thread. Years past have shown that being patient when things head South doesn’t help and it’s just prolonging the inevitable.

Last game vs. the Islanders saw the line of the Reider, Eakin, and Okposo get benched. This line holds the title for worst xGF% in the league per MoneyPuck.com.

Reminiscent to their struggles against the Islanders, the Sabres have dropped three straight games to Philly, all by a score of 3-0. That’s 180 minutes without a goal against a team that ideally the Sabres would be fighting against for the final playoff spot in the East Division.

Bryson and Mittlestadt Yield Optimism

Casey Mittelstadt appears to have developed him game quite a bit since his demotion to Rochester last season. Sporting a 51.22 xGF% (via NaturalStatTrick.com), Mittelstadt is playing some of the best hockey of his career and showing he deserves a spot in this lineup.

Jacob Bryson has been a breath of fresh air on the back end with his smooth skating and puck moving abilities. Averaging over 20 minutes a game in his last 4, Bryson certainly offers the style of play that this team is in dire need of.

The high event hockey that Bryson plays does come with some risk but on a team dying for goals, it is much needed. Bryson needs to continue his wheeling and dealing ways and if he does, he should not be returning to Rochester.

March Woes Continue

As Jeremy White from WGR pointed out, the Sabres have not won a regulation game in March since 2018. This is a stretch that has seen the team go 24 consecutive March games without a win in regulation.

During this time, the team has gone 3-19-2 record with their only wins happening in OT or a shootout.

It has been a little over a year since Jason Botterill said that he wanted to play meaningful games in March. The team has undergone many changes since then and the world has changed dramatically but in the present moment, these games don’t feel very meaningful.

There’s a burning desire within the fanbase for these March woes to haunt us no more. Winning can cure things quickly but it’s not clear how Kevyn Adams plans to fix what he called, “unacceptable” in a press conference just last week. With the Islanders behind them, the Sabres will try to rebound their rough start to March.

Jeff Skinner Scores

In what was a topic of conversation the entire year, Jeff Skinner finally scored his 1st goal of the season and got the monkey off his back. Still one of the better play drivers at even strength on the Sabres, Skinner is more likely than not to get things going here and start putting points up.

There’s been several times in his tenure with Buffalo where Skinner went on little hot streaks and given the horrible luck he’s had to start this season, now would be a good time to wager on the former 40 goal scorer to add to his goal total in the next few games.

NHL Draft Lottery Changes

Changes to the NHL Draft lottery were reported by Chris Johnston yesterday and while still not perfect, it does seem like a step in the right direction.

Elliotte Friedman added that teams that had won the lottery in prior years would not count towards a team’s total. Friedman also noted the changes would not take effect until the 2022 NHL Draft with the lone exception being the change from 3 winners down to 2 being effective for 2021.

Anyone looking ahead at the 2022 Draft will be excited to know that should the Sabres win the lottery this year, they’d still be eligible to win again in 2022 and have the right to select projected 1st overall phenom, Shane Wright.

Prediction

This Sabres team has little to get excited about lately and it’s hard to expect them to break out of this current slide they are on. They’ll win if they score 3 power play goals but I’m not banking on that so Philly it is.

3-1 Philly.

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