NHL Odds, Preview, Prediction: Sabres vs. Avalanche (December 15)

NHL Odds, Preview, Prediction: Sabres vs. Avalanche (December 15) article feature image

Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Mattias Samuelsson of the Buffalo Sabres.

  • The Buffalo Sabres meet the Colorado Avalanche in Thursday night NHL action.
  • The Sabres don't have a great record in a stacked conference, but their output has been better than their record suggests.
  • Nick Martin breaks down Sabres vs. Avalanche and shares his top pick below.

Sabres vs. Avalanche Odds

Sabres Odds+146
Avalanche Odds-178
Over/Under6.5 (-104 / -118)
Time9 p.m. ET
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute NHL Odds here.

The Avalanche has been bitten hard by the injury bug in the early going of their attempt to repeat as Stanley Cup Champions. If anything, a 15-10-2 record is a firm comment toward just how spectacular general manager Joe Sakic's roster is.

Colorado will remain without the likes of Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog, among several other mainstays, on the regular roster. Yet, that makes the situation drastically better than it was at its worst.

As a result, the Avalanche are back to skating as heavy favourites, and are priced at -185 to best a Sabres team sitting dead last in the Atlantic Division. Is this the right spot to back Colorado?

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Buffalo Sabres

Buffalo broke through with six goals in the third period Thursday against Los Angeles en route to a 6-0 final score.

In years previous, that kind of outburst would be entirely stunning. But for this year's Sabres, it's somewhat par for the course. Buffalo has scored the most goals in the entire NHL with 3.97 per game, and the Sabres have quietly become an offensive side that can bite opponents in many ways.

The Sabres' +13 goal differential is significantly better than any team near the bottom of the standings. In fact, it's actually ninth-best in the entire league — even better than the Avalanche.

Yes, that mark has come with some blowouts, but it's still a sign that the Sabres are better than most give them credit for. That's especially true considering the Eastern Conference, as a whole, owns a +108 goal differential, and Buffalo is playing in an incredibly stacked Atlantic Division.

Since the return of Mattias Samuelsson, Buffalo has skated to a 6-3-2 record, with a breakeven 50.02 expected goals rating and +16 goal differential.

Jeff Skinner will remain sidelined for the final game of his three-game suspension, which means Casey Mittelstadt will likely remain on both the top unit and top powerplay.

Buffalo's top unit skated well with Mittelstadt in place of Skinner on Tuesday and generated an xGoals share of 69.0% from 12 shot attempts.

Mittelstadt may not have initially appeared as the most likely skater to be elevated to that role, but head coach Don Granato clearly did not want to break up his incredibly dominant second line of Jack Quinn, J.J. Peterka, and Dylan Cozens.

Craig Anderson will likely start for the Sabres and has played to a very steady +4.1 goals saved above expected rating and a .921 save % throughout 12 games played.

Colorado Avalanche

Even with how Colorado's season has started, I would still firmly argue it deserves to be the cup favorite, which is something to keep in mind when monitoring Stanley Cup outright prices.

The Western Conference appears to be considerably softer than the East yet again and has allowed Colorado to scrape by with less-than-full-tilt efforts and an incredibly depleted roster.

Landeskog, MacKinnon, Bowen Byram, Josh Manson and Evan Rodrigues, headline what's still an incredibly tough IR situation, but the current outlook is far better than it was.

Over the last month of play, the Avalanche own a 52.16 xGF%, which is strong, but not the kind of elite mark one might expect from the former champs.

One of the biggest positives for the Avalanche this season has been the play of Alexandar Georgiev in goal. He has played to a +4.0 goals saved above expected rating and .920 save % throughout 18 games played.

Sabres vs. Avalanche Pick

Colorado's injury situation is drastically better than it was with the likes of Artturi Lehkonen and Valeri Nichushkin back skating in the top six, but the Avalanche are undoubtedly far from full strength.

Buffalo has quietly played at an extremely high level over the last several weeks, and its league-best offense makes it a threat to win any contest. The Sabres' last place standing in the NHL's toughest division and conference is selling it immensely short for the time being.

Absolutely nothing that indicates future success in hockey suggests Buffalo is a bottom-10 side this season. At +165, we're being given an excellent number to see if Buffalo can manage to hang around with the cup champs who are not in top form at this point due to roster absences.

At five-on-five, I believe the gameplay in this contest will be closer than this long price suggests, and I like a play on Buffalo down to +150.

The Sabres' goaltending situation is concerning, however, and I believe seeing another shutout is highly unlikely in this spot.

A bet on the over is another play I like, as contests featuring the Sabres versus another capable offensive side project to average past 6.5 goals for the foreseeable future.

Pick: Sabres ML +165 (Play to +150) · Over 6.5 (-105 · Play to -115)

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