Buffalo Sabres vs Philadelphia Flyers 3/31/31 Game Preview

Expected Lines

Sabres

Hall – Mittelstadt – Thompson

Olofsson – Sheahan – Reinhart

Skinner – Lazar – Okposo

Reider – Eakin – Asplund

Dahlin – Jokiharju

Bryson – Ristolainen

Montour – Miller

Ullmark

Flyers

van Riemsdyk – Couturier – Konecny

Giroux – Hayes – Farabee

Lindblom – Patrick – Voracek

Raffl – Laughton – Aube Kubel

Provorov – Braun

Sanheim – Myers

Gostisbehere – Morin

Hart

Tale of the Tape

Record: Buffalo (6-23-5; 8th division/31st league) vs. Philadelphia Flyers (17-13-4; 5th division/14th league)

5v5 Goals For %: Buffalo (35.20%; 31st) vs. Philadelphia Flyers (43.67%; 27th)

5v5 xGoals For %: Buffalo (47.31%; 24th) vs. Philadelphia Flyers (48.69%; 21st)

Point Leaders: Olofsson/Reinhart (21) vs. van Riemsdyk (31)

Milestone Watch

Kyle Okposo is two goals away from 200 in his NHL career

Rasmus Dahlin is four points away from 100 in his NHL career

Michael Raffl will play his 500th NHL game tonight

Bryson Practices, Cozens Out

Both Jacob Bryson and Dylan Cozens were injured Monday night against Philadelphia. Jacob Bryson returned to practice the next day, but Cozens was absent and he will miss tonight’s game.

The injury occurred on a relatively routine hit along the boards, but it appears Cozens either injured his shoulder or collarbone. It was said on the MSG broadcast he chucked his stick down the tunnel, a sign he knew there was something wrong beyond getting dinged up.

We’re hoping it’s more day-to-day than week-to-week.

Sabres GM Kevyn Adams at Sabres Optional Skate

Mittelstadt’s Opportunity

It’s no secret it’s a big opportunity for me. I feel like I’ve been playing well and making plays. It’s just, we got to get the results.

Sabres forward Casey Mittelstadt

He’s right. Mittelstadt has played significantly better this season with more jump in his step, compete in his game and improved defensive play. It is certainly still a work in progress and production is ultimately what matters for the skill players, but Mittelstadt has done what is needed for him to take the next step and become an everyday NHL player.

Tonight, all eyes will be on Mittelstadt. Eichel is out for the year, Staal was traded, Cozens is injured. Getting thrown into the deep end is not the worst scenario for Mittelstadt. If he struggles, it will not be a major concern. The entire team has struggled and Mittelstadt is still a third line player this season. If he does well, that can only feed into his confidence that he has built up to this point.

Frankly, Mittelstadt’s emergence this season after a difficult start to his NHL career is one of the brightest spots of this dismal season. Again, it is still very much a work in progress, he still has a long way to go to reach his original expectations. At the same time, Mittelstadt is still young, gaining confidence and he deserves praise for his determination to grind his way back into the NHL.

Flyers Look Beatable

Despite the epic collapse on Monday night, the Sabres had the Flyers in a tough position, up 3-0 after two periods. The goaltending has not been lights out as it was last season for Philadelphia, the tandem of Carter Hart and Brian Elliot is dead last in Save % (88.46%). The issues have gotten to a point where there are even reports the Flyers management is kicking tires on bringing in goaltender help for their playoff push.

It is not solely the goaltender’s fault. The team defense is lacking with the Flyers in 30th place with 89 5v5 goals against. To compound that, teams just above them have two, sometimes three more games played than the Flyers (not including the Sabres, they’re 28th with 81 5v5 GA and the same amount of games played)*.

If the Sabres can continue the trend of scoring 5v5 goals against Philadelphia and clean up their mistakes, the winless streak could come to an end tonight.

*Stats according to Natural Stat Trick

Prediction:

I think Monday night was a wake up call for Philadelphia. Even though they won, do not expect the Flyers to take what happened lightly. They were about a foot away from losing 4-2 or 4-3 when Tage Thompson’s diving poke at the open net missed from center ice. The Flyers game was messy until the third period, but Buffalo certainly did not help themselves after 40 minutes of play either. Remember what happened after the 6-1 thumping the Sabres dished out to this same team earlier this season. The next game the Flyers blanked Buffalo 3-0.

4-2 Flyers

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