Happy game day, Nation! Here we are with a Sunday Funday edition of the GDB to get ourselves prepped for tonight’s matchup between the Edmonton Oilers and the Buffalo Sabres.
I don’t know about you guys, but I always look forward to watching the Oilers and Sabres go head to head. I love watching the league’s best players face off against each other and we’ll get a chance to do that tonight with Buffalo in town. There’s something about the McDavid/Eichel matchup that is always intriguing even though anyone with working eyeballs knows that there’s no real comparison between the two. And I say that knowing full well that Jack Eichel is a hell of a hockey player that any team would be lucky to have… he’s just not Connor… or Leon. Anyway, the whole comparison thing between them is completely unfair but I’m sure it’s going to come up in some variety today anyway. I mean, I’m doing it right now ffs! Let’s move on, shall we?
Coming into tonight’s game, the Oilers had yet another chance to take advantage of a team that’s riding a losing streak and coming into town on the second half of a back-to-back set. Normally, you’d think of this scenario as a good thing, but the last time the Oilers were afforded this opportunity was last Wednesday against the Senators and I think we’re all still trying to shake the trauma from that one. I was at the game against the Kings on Friday night and the boys got carved at even strength, it was stressful to watch them lean on Koskinen as much as they had to, and that simply can’t happen against the Sabres. I know that Tippett said he wasn’t concerned about LA’s shot totals, but I don’t think many would disagree that the boys could use some tightening up in every aspect, especially if they’re going to turn Friday’s win into two in a row.
Tonight’s matchup marks the first of two meetings between these two clubs with the second coming on January 2nd in Buffalo. In 2018-19, the Oilers won both games against the Sabres, outscoring them by an 11 to five margin.
|LAST 10 GAMES||5-4-1||3-4-3|
|EXPECTED GOALS FOR%||48.90||47.69|
Numbers courtesy of Natural Stat Trick (fancies at 5×5)
Draisaitl – McDavid – Kassian
Khaira – RNH – Neal
Nygard – Haas – Chiasson
Granlund – Sheahan – Archibald
Nurse – Bear
Klefbom – Persson
Russell – Larsson
The Oilers will get two major pieces back in the lineup as both Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Zack Kassian will make their return. Having Nuge back in the lineup allows Dave Tippett to put Connor and Leon back together, and also gives the Oilers a general boost in all game situations. Kassian, of course, is the third leg of the tripod with McDavid and Draisaitl and having him back after missing three games with a back injury will add some toughness and scoring to a lineup that could certainly use both.
At the time of posting, no concrete line combos have been released so I took a swing at what I think they might look like based on yesterday’s practice, but I’ll be sure to jump in and edit once news becomes available.
Olofsson – Eichel – Reinhart
Skinner – Larsson – Sheary
Mittelstadt – Johansson – Vesey
Girgensons – Asplund – Rodrigues
Montour – Ristolainen
Scandella – Jokiharju
Miller – Bogosian
Looking at their stats, the bulk of the Sabres’ offence comes from their top line and the Oilers are going to have to do everything they can to limit their offensive chances.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…
Plus-1: Goals are Nice
As much as it’s always nice to see Jeff Skinner or Jack Eichel score, it’s also admittedly nice to see the Sabres getting some secondary scoring from other players. Kyle Okposo scored in his first game back from injury, Rasmus Ristolainen did something good, and Marcus Johansson got some of his MoJo back! Zemgus Girgensons also found the back of the net, and Victor Olofsson scoring is always a thing of beauty.
Defensive slip-ups like the Marco Scandella play on the Canucks’ early goal just can’t happen, but the team also needs to be able to rely on its goaltending to make those saves. The same can be said for the overtime, game-winning goal. As bad as it was for Henri Jokiharju to get called for a penalty in overtime, the play happened to try to allow Eichel to make the shot. Hutton needed to play stronger in overtime and make that final save, and it didn’t happen.
Minus-2: You’ve Got to Play More than 60 Minutes
Saturday’s loss marks the fifth straight overtime loss for the Sabres, including one shootout loss. Buffalo can maybe (sometimes) play sixty minutes, or at least play strong enough to find themselves tied at the end of sixty, but if the game isn’t over, they’ve got to keep playing and find a way to win. Every point counts.
Game Day Prediction: Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl shine and the Oilers wrap up the weekend with a 5-3 win.
Obvious Game Day Prediction: Somewhere, Tim Murray is still quietly pouting about how he lost the 2015 Draft Lottery.
Not-So-Obvious Game Day Prediction: Riley Sheahan gets his first goal as an Oiler. You won’t see it coming, I won’t see it coming, but it’s going to happen.
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