NHL Odds, Preview, Prediction: Sabres vs Devils (Saturday, November 25)
Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Jeff Skinner #53 of the Buffalo Sabres
Sabres vs. Devils Odds
New Jersey started the 2023 campaign 7-3-1, but injuries have taken a toll on the Devils, resulting in a 1-6 skid.
Buffalo isn't playing at full strength either, so health issues will be a recurring topic as we preview this upcoming contest and offer a Sabres vs. Devils prediction for Saturday.
The Sabres wrapped up their 20th game of 2023-24 on Friday and with a 9-9-2 record. There have been some positives, but also plenty of cause for concern.
Perhaps the best news is that Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, who struggled last campaign, has made strides this season, posting a 2.71 GAA and a .914 save percentage through 10 contests. Unfortunately, he was in net for Buffalo's 3-2 victory over Pittsburgh on Friday, so he isn't likely to be in goal Saturday.
Instead, the Sabres will probably turn to Devon Levi, who has tremendous promise but has struggled in 2023-24 with a 3-4-1 record, 3.66 GAA and .879 save percentage in eight contests. He's allowed three or more goals in six of those eight games.
If Levi ends up having a bad game on Saturday, it will be even more problematic because the Sabres' offense has been the team's main disappointment this campaign. Buffalo ranked third in 2022-23 with 3.57 goals per game, but the team is tied for 25th this year with 2.85.
The Sabres have watched many of their top forwards take a step back this campaign. For context, they had four players finish with at least 30 goals last season (Tage Thompson, Alex Tuch, Jeff Skinner and Dylan Cozens).
So far this campaign, just Skinner and J.J. Peterka are on pace for at least 30 markers. Buffalo might have had a third in Thompson, but he hasn't played since Nov. 14 because of an upper-body injury and is week to week, so an offense that was already showing fragility is now missing one of its best forwards.
The Sabres have also been missing Jack Quinn (Achilles) all campaign, which has hurt their scoring depth, and now Zemgus Girgensons (lower body) might miss time too after exiting Friday's contest.
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New Jersey might still have it worse on the injury front.
Nico Hischier (upper body) and Timo Meier (lower body) are both doubtful for Saturday's contest, which robs the Devils of two of their top-six forwards. Tomas Nosek (upper body) and Nolan Foote (undisclosed) are out too, further diminishing their scoring depth.
At least Jack Hughes (shoulder) has returned after missing five straight contests from Nov. 5-16, but New Jersey isn't out of the woods yet.
That string of injuries has dampened the offense considerably. Over the Devils' first 11 games, they were scoring an incredible 3.91 goals per game, but that's crashed to 2.43 over their last seven outings.
No wonder New Jersey is struggling.
It's not like the Devils have goaltending capable of picking up the slack either. Vitek Vanecek, who's projected to start Saturday after Akira Schmid got the nod Friday, has a 3.43 GAA and an .886 save percentage in 13 contests this season.
Vanecek does have seven wins, but that's due to the offense; the Devils supplied at least four goals in each of those victories.
That includes a game against Buffalo from before the Devils' slump. Vanecek couldn't handle the Sabres, stopping just 23 of 27 shots, but his teammates bailed him out by scoring five goals.
With the way New Jersey's forwards have performed lately, it might be a bit much to expect history to repeat itself.
The Devils' recent struggles haven't scared oddsmakers, who still view them as heavy favorites.
On the FanDuel moneyline, taking New Jersey comes with odds of -162 compared to +134 for Buffalo. That makes the juiced Sabres an interesting bet.
Buffalo might not be a safe bet to win this contest, but when you look at these teams, both of them have equally sorry goaltending as well as forward corps that are missing some key members, which has contributed to underwhelming offenses.
As things stand right now, neither squad seems to have a clear advantage.
It does seem like the odds haven't caught up to the Devils' woes, which has created this situation in which a roughly even matchup has such an uneven moneyline, meaning the potential payout for the risk involved is skewed in your favor.
Pick: Buffalo Sabres (+150 at Caesars) | Play down to +125