NHL Odds, Preview, Prediction: Devils vs. Sabres (Dec. 29)
Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (Sabres)
Devils vs. Sabres Odds
|Time||7 p.m. ET|
|Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute NHL Odds here.|
Rest can be a formidable weapon, but in other ways, that rest can turn to rust. It will be the first game in two weeks for the Buffalo Sabres and New Jersey Devils, so expect both teams to come into this game looking a little sloppy.
One team that can certainly benefit from that extended break is the New Jersey Devils. In their last 10 games, the Devils have gone 1-8-1 and have lost six out of their last seven. It will be a fresh start for Jersey, as it looks to right the wrongs of the first 30 games.
The month of December has included a whole lot of nothing for the Sabres. Buffalo went 1-1-2 all month — only playing four games due to postponements and due to the nature of its schedule.
The Sabres’ players are looking to get back on the ice and will be ready to play their first game since December 17th.
Devils’ Health is Big Factor
When training camp hit in September, many thought the Devils were going to take that next step. With a ton of young talent looking to progress and some key additions, all signs were pointing in their favor.
However, things don’t always work the way they’re supposed to. The Devils have a talented roster with key players like Jesper Bratt, Andreas Johnsson, Dougie Hamilton and Jack Hughes, but the injury bug has hit them in more ways than one.
When they get healthy, it’ll be interesting to see how they fare, but for now, they are feeling the hurt.
While this season was supposed to be a significant improvement, they can’t seem to get out of their own way. New Jersey is ranked 20th in xGF per 60 minutes (expected goals) at 2.25, but impressively ranks in the top 10 in generating high danger chances.
However, the Devils have been an abysmal team on the power play, scoring at only a 12.9% clip, which is bad enough for 30th in the NHL.
A major factor in this skid has been the Devils’ goaltending. They have been without Jonathan Bernier due to a hip injury, while Mackenzie Blackwood and recently-acquired Jon Gillies are both in the COVID protocols.
That leaves the only spot for Akira Schmid, who has had a rough time in his first three NHL games. The rookie is posting a lowly .851 SV% and a -4.7 GSAx (Goals Saved Above Expected), so it’s going to be a rough patch moving forward.
Sabres Exceeding Expectations
Buffalo is definitely having a much better season than expected, even posting the same exact record as its counterpart. Many felt the Sabres would be a doormat — similar to what the Coyotes are now — but Don Granato’s squad has shown up.
They’ll also start to feel the benefits of the Jack Eichel trade with Alex Tuch making his debut, in addition to decent production from Kyle Okposo, Victor Olofsson and Tage Thompson.
With the Sabres playing better than expected, they have been fairly middle of the road, which is an upgrade from last season. They’re posting a 2.3 xGF per 60 — which is 18th in the league — but not generating as many high danger chances as they’d hope, ranking 20th.
They are a decent team on the power play, however, as they score at an 18.4% rate.
One can see these numbers and think they’re a poor team, but given the low expectations and upgrades from last year, it’s a great sign for Sabres fans.
The crease is looking very different than how it looked at the start of the season. Buffalo started with Dustin Tokarski and Craig Anderson. However, with Anderson out on IR and Tokarski not seeing the ice since November, the Sabres acquired Malcolm Subban via trade and called up top prospect Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen.
Luukkonen has played like a star in his first five games, posting a .939 SV% and a 3.2 GSAx, while Subban has posted an .877 SV% and a -1.9 GSAx.
I’d expect Luukkonen to get the nod, but I would monitor who starts.
Devils vs. Sabres Pick
Both teams come into this game with the same record, so one would think this would be an even match. Unfortunately, due to Jersey’s goaltending woes, it’s not as even as you think.
I can see Buffalo coming in rusty given the fact that it has only played four games this month, but I don’t envision Schmid carrying the Devils to a victory. I’m backing Buffalo.
Pick: Buffalo Sabres +110