Sabres vs. Islanders NHL Odds, Pick, Prediction (Dec. 30)
Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images. Pictured: Adam Pelech
Sabres vs. Islanders Odds
|Time||7:30 p.m. ET|
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The Buffalo Sabres returned to play on Wednesday night in a 4-3 loss at home against the New Jersey Devils, but the scoreboard is not a proper indication of how that game went.
The Sabres were outshot 42-22 and lost the xG battle, 2.72 to 1.6, but managed to keep the game close until the very end. Buffalo now heads south to Long Island to take on an Islanders team that has dealt with a ton of adversity this season and will be looking to get the season back on track.
A New Era in Buffalo
It's been another rough season in Western New York, but Sabres fans did have reason to get excited on Wednesday night. Alex Tuch and Peyton Krebs — the key pieces of the Jack Eichel trade — made their debut and were joined by JJ Perterka.
Buffalo's 10-16-5 record isn't worth writing home about, but it's a modest improvement for the Sabres, who were expected to be one of the very worst teams in the NHL this season. Buffalo's modest improvement can be chalked up to decent production from players like Tage Thompson and Kyle Okposo, who both came into the year with low expectations, as well as a decent step forward from Rasmus Dahlin.
Still, the Sabres are struggling at all ends of the ice compared to most of the NHL. The Sabres currently rank as the 25th-best offense in the league, scoring 2.68 goals per game, and are only generating 9.84 high-danger chances per 60. Buffalo also ranks near the bottom of the circuit in terms of expected goals for per 60 minutes.
Buffalo's defensive metrics are stronger, but the Sabres are just middle of the pack in terms of expected goals against and with inconsistent goaltending, the team is often up against it.
Malcolm Subban is expected to get the start on Long Island and he's struggled over the past three seasons in limited duty. Subban has a -13.56 Goals Saved Above Expected (GSAx) in 38 appearances for Chicago, Vegas and Buffalo.
The Sabres are likely to be without Jeff Skinner, Dylan Cozens and Vinnie Hinostroza due to Covid-19 protocols.
A Fresh Start for the Islanders?
The Islanders season has gone completely off the rails for plenty of reasons. The team's schedule has been stop-start thanks to a quirky 13-game road trip and the pandemic, the lineup has been decimated by Covid and injuries, and the team has not been able to find its form.
After watching nearly half his team land on the Covid list in November, you could forgive Barry Trotz for thinking that they were past those issues, but that just isn't how things have gone for the Isles so far this season. Oliver Wahlstrom, Brock Nelson, Anthony Beauvillier, Zach Parise and Cal Clutterbuck are all in protocol, while Kyle Palmieri and Ryan Pulock remain out, as well.
The good news is the team's best player, Mat Barzal, is back after landing in protocol himself.
Even with all the lineup issues, this is a big opportunity for the Islanders to start anew and begin the long climb back towards the playoff picture. The Islanders were starting to show signs of finding their game before the pause and we've seen this team go on long runs before, so tonight's opponent could be exactly what the doctor ordered.
Ilya Sorokin is expected to get the start in goal for the Isles on Thursday and the 26-year-old Russian has been terrific this season, skating to a .926 save percentage and a +5.1 Goals Saved Above Expected (GSAx) in 19 games.
The Islanders going to have to find some offense, if they want to contend. Right now they are 30th in the NHL in scoring, averaging 2.19 goals per game, while generating 10.58 high-danger chances per 60 minutes.
Sabres vs. Islanders Pick
The Islanders are coming off the long pause, while the Sabres are traveling on the second night of a back-to-back, so it's a weird scheduling spot to handicap on Thursday night.
That said, I do think the long break should benefit the Islanders in the long run and the Isles could get going against a Sabres team that struggles to drive play. In addition, this is a mismatch in goal with Sorokin (or Semyon Varlamov) taking on Subban.
Although the Islanders have struggled this season and are dealing with injuries, I do feel comfortable enough in this matchup to back the Isles to get the job done in regulation.
Pick: New York Islanders to win in regulation -130