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NHL Odds, Preview, Prediction: Blues Jackets vs. Sabres (February 28)

NHL Odds, Preview, Prediction: Blues Jackets vs. Sabres (February 28) article feature image
Credit:

Ben Jackson/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Johnny Gaudreau of the Columbus Blue Jackets

  • It may be too soon to truly count out the Blue Jackets this season.
  • Tonight in Buffalo, Columbus is a big underdog, but the Jackets have a developed a knack for keeping it close.
  • That's one reason Greg Liodice likes the puck line in this game, as he details below.

Blues Jackets vs. Sabres Odds

Blues Jackets Odds +175
Sabres Odds -205
Over/Under 7 (+115 / -135)
Time 7:30 p.m. ET
TV ESPN+
Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute NHL Odds here.

The Columbus Blue Jackets head to Western New York to take on the Buffalo Sabres. It’s been an adventurous month for the Jackets, going 4-4-1, after losing to the Wild in overtime on Sunday.

Buffalo keeps making a push for the playoffs in the juggernaut known as the East. The Sabres have won three in a row with convincing victories against Tampa, Florida and Washington.

Here’s a look at our odds, as well as our prediction for the Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Buffalo Sabres.

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Columbus Blue Jackets Not Clicking

Beyond the team’s top offseason acquisition in Johnny Gaudreau, there’s not much to get excited for this year in Columbus. Patrik Laine is always a threat, and he’s having a decent season, as is captain Boone Jenner.

Rookies Kirill Marchenko and Kent Johnson are also scoring options but don’t move the needle yet.

The Blue Jackets have a bottom 10 even strength offense, posting a low expected goals rate of 44.67 xGF%. They also have a highly disappointing power play, scoring only 16% of the time.

Defensively, they’re a mess, and missing Vladislav Gavrikov isn’t helping. Columbus allows a third-most 3.68 goals per game, and the team is 27th in expected goals allowed (xGA).

What is finally working for the Jackets is their goaltending. Elvis Merzlikins is having a nightmarish season, but in February he is posting a .928 SV%.

I do believe Joonas Korpisalo starts, though, as he’s been more reliable. This month, he’s posting a .940 SV% and an overall 8.4 goals saved above expected (GSAx).


Buffalo Sabres Relying on Depth

Buffalo is entering tonight shorthanded due to the injury of Alex Tuch. Tuch has been excellent for the Sabres since arriving last year, and they’ll miss him.

All-star Rasmus Dahlin is day-to-day, as well, so that’s worth monitoring.

Luckily, the Sabres have enough talent to survive with guys such as Tage Thompson, Jeff Skinner and Dylan Cozens pushing this team forward for the playoffs.

February hasn’t been kind to Buffalo offensively. Its even-strength attack suffered, playing to a 21st-ranked 47.67 xGF%. What’s working, though, is the power play, which scores at a 25% clip.

I think the Sabres would be much better if the defense were better. They allow 3.48 goals per game (partially goaltending’s fault), but they’re toward the middle in xGA.

The only aspect that concerns me for the Sabres is their goaltending; 40-year-old Craig Anderson has played tremendously, but due to his age, his starts are limited.

I would guess Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen starts. He’s had a rough February, though, posting an .859 SV% and an overall -2.4 GSAx. The Finn is still very unreliable, but the Sabres think highly of him.


Blues Jackets vs. Sabres Pick

It looks like the Blue Jackets are giving up on the season, ready to reload for next year. D-man Adam Boqvist is also day-to-day, and if he misses time along with Gavrikov, the defense will struggle. I have been encouraged by Korpisalo’s game as of late. though. The numbers favor him, and he’s keeping the Jackets in games.

What I’m curious about is to see how Buffalo reacts to the Tuch injury. He was a staple in an offense that struggled to generate a solid even-strength attack. The Sabres are a team that thrives off their penalty kill, and even though the Jackets are abysmal defensively, they handle their own. It will be interesting to see if the Sabres can create anything of significance.

The last time Korpisalo played the Sabres, he got lit up, allowing three goals on nine shots before getting pulled. I don’t, however, see the same thing happening. I think this game will be much closer than it was previously (Buffalo won 9-4). With Buffalo missing one (maybe two) key players, and Korpisalo playing the way he is, I’m going with Columbus at +1.5.

Pick: Columbus Blue Jackets +1.5 (-130 at DraftKings)

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