NHL Odds, Pick & Preview: Sabres vs. Blue Jackets (Sunday, Feb. 20)
Ben Green/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Buffalo Sabres players celebrate.
- Columbus and Buffalo meet at Nationwide Arena on Sunday.
- The Blue Jackets are hoping to slide into the playoffs and are -155 favorites over the Sabres.
- Greg Liodice breaks down the game and gives his top pick, below.
Sabres vs. Blue Jackets Odds
|Blue Jackets Odds||-155|
|Time||6 p.m. ET|
|Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute NHL Odds here.|
The Buffalo Sabres visit the Midwest where they take on the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena. It will be the third occasion both teams face off, with Columbus winning in an OT thriller in Buffalo last time. This time, it’s in Ohio, where the Sabres will look to get revenge.
Considering where they are in the standings, I’d say the Sabres exceeded expectations. They most likely won’t make the playoffs, but they’ve been competitive. In their last 10 games, the Sabres have gone 4-5-1, including a loss Saturday to the Avalanche.
Columbus is sort of on a hot streak. It has won four out of its last five and is making a last-ditch effort for a playoff push, which may seem out of reach to most. Nonetheless, the Blue Jackets are riding high and hope to keep it up against a resilient Sabres squad.
Sabres Have Been Bitten By Injury Bug
Buffalo has gotten some good production out of a few players. Jeff Skinner seems to be back in his groove with 20 goals already. Tage Thompson is shaping up to be a solid top-six player, and Rasmus Dahlin is quietly having a decent year. However, the injury bug has hit them big time. Missing in action will be Zemgus Girgensons, Vinnie Hinostroza, Drake Caggiula, Casey Mittelstadt, Will Butcher, Jack Quinn and Colin Miller. That is quite jarring.
For what they are, they do a decent job at driving play. The Sabres are currently ranked 22nd in expected goals per 60 with a 2.23 xGF/60, however, they struggle at generating high-danger chances. The power play is one of their bright spots though, as they score at a 19.7% clip, which is much better in previous seasons.
Certainly on the defensive side, things can be a bit better. They’re currently 27th in high-danger chances allowed and 25th in goals allowed.
Dustin Tokarski and Craig Anderson have seemed to split the starts since Anderson came back from injury. The 40-year-old Anderson is posting decent numbers with a .917 SV% and a +0.2 GSAx (Goals Saved Above Expected). Tokarski, on the other hand, hasn’t been as lucky with a .902 SV% and a -5.0 GSAx. Since Tokarski started against the Avs, I see Anderson getting the nod tonight.
Columbus Blue Jackets
The Blue Jackets are always a scrappy team to play against. No matter where they are in the standings, they’re expected to give opposing teams headaches. With contributions from captain Boone Jenner, Jakub Voracek, Oliver Bjorkstrand, and Patrik Laine, they will always find ways to make other teams’ lives miserable.
While they’re not exactly the best team in the standings, the Jackets do a fairly good job at driving play. They have an xGF/60 of 2.62, good enough for 12th in the league, but they don’t create as many high-danger chances as they’d like, ranking 25th. With the man advantage, they could be better as well, scoring at a 17.5% clip.
Defensively, Columbus is a mess as it allows the second-most high-danger chances, as well as the fourth-most goals out of all teams.
The goaltending room is getting quite slim as both Joonas Korpisalo and Daniil Tarasov are both out with injury. That leaves Elvis Merzlikins the only credible netminder. The Latvian goalie is doing the best he can with a poor defense by posting a .903 SV% and a -4.3 GSAx. I fully expect Merzlikins to get the start tonight.
Sabres vs. Blue Jackets Pick
I think Buffalo can pull out a win in this matchup. Despite the injuries, its top players are available, and I just don’t trust Columbus’ defense in this bout. Not to mention the Sabres held their own against the best team in hockey in the Avalanche. The Jackets are playing well as of late too, but I can see Buffalo coming in with something to prove.
Pick: Buffalo Sabres +135