NHL Odds, Preview, Prediction, Expert Pick: Stars vs. Sabres (March 9)
Kirk Irwin/Getty Images. Pictured: Tage Thompson of the Buffalo Sabres
- The Sabres host the Stars to kick off Thursday night's NHL slate.
- Buffalo is looking to snap a two-game skid, while Dallas is battling to maintain its narrow lead in the Central Division.
- Ryan Dadoun looks into this matchup and offers up his best bet below.
Stars vs. Sabres Odds
|Time||7 p.m. ET|
|Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute NHL Odds here.|
The Stars have a narrow lead in the Central Division, but their next task will be to face a Buffalo team desperate for a win to stay relevant in the Eastern Conference’s wild-card race. Under those circumstances, will Dallas be able to push past the Sabres?
Any time Jake Oettinger is in net, he has the potential to be the game’s MVP. However, Dallas’ starting goaltender has struggled lately. Over his past six contests, Oettinger has posted a 3.49 GAA and an .883 save percentage. That includes a 5-4 loss to Calgary on Monday in which Oettinger stopped 32 of 37 shots.
This is a dangerous time for Oettinger to be anything less than stellar because Buffalo boasts some of the league’s top scoring threats. However, even when Oettinger isn’t at his best, Dallas isn’t helpless.
The Stars’ offense is a step below Buffalo’s, but they still rank 12th with a respectable 3.31 goals per game. Jason Robertson has been the foundation of Dallas’ attack with 38 goals and 80 points in 64 contests, but he’s gotten help, especially recently.
Roope Hintz is one of the hottest players in the league with seven goals and nine points over his past six contests. Jamie Benn is also on a roll with four goals and 10 points over his past seven outings.
The hot forwards have led to the Stars scoring at least three goals in each of their past six games. Dallas, as a result, has a 4-1-1 record over that span, even as Oettinger works through a rough patch.
Recently, Buffalo’s attack has looked mortal. The Sabres have the third-ranked offense with 3.68 goals per game, but they’ve averaged just 2.60 over their past five contests. That’s a big problem because Buffalo usually isn’t up to the task of besting its competition in goaltending duels.
Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen isn’t exactly having an inspiring campaign with his 15-10-2 record, 3.61 GAA and .893 save percentage in 27 contests. Craig Anderson has fared better with a .918 save percentage, but he still has just a 2.78 GAA in 22 games.
To be fair to the Sabres’ goaltending, Buffalo has an expected goals against of 227.33 this season, which is the fifth-worst in the league, per moneypuck. That suggests Buffalo’s defense deserves a significant portion of the blame for the Sabres’ inability to keep pucks out of their net. Regardless of the cause, the result is Buffalo usually needs its offense to be at the top of its game in order to have a reasonable chance at winning.
Part of the reason for the Sabres’ recent offensive woes has been the absence of Alex Tuch (lower body). The 26-year-old, who has 28 goals and 62 points in 57 outings this season, has missed Buffalo’s past six games and might be out Thursday too. Buffalo still has Tage Thompson, Jeff Skinner and Dylan Cozens though, who each have at least 25 goals and 55 points this season. Plus, Rasmus Dahlin is one of the best offensive defensemen in the league with 14 goals and 63 points in 59 contests.
Buffalo’s offense hasn’t been clicking lately, but the Sabres could heat up at any time — even without Tuch.
Stars vs. Sabres Pick
Dallas is being treated as fairly heavy favorites, which is fair given the gap in these teams’ records, but that leaves Dallas with a potential payout of -152 on FanDuel’s moneyline. That’s a little too low to appeal to me.
At the same time, I don’t trust Buffalo to pull past Dallas. So, I think the best solution is to take the over of 6.5 goals. There’s obvious risk there too, given the Sabres’ recent offensive slump, but Oettinger hasn’t been playing his best hockey either.
Plus, when you combine the two forward groups, the over seems perfectly achievable.
Pick: Over 6.5 | Play to -120
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