The Columbus Blue Jackets make the short trip from Toronto to Buffalo, as they gear up for a matchup with the stumbling Buffalo Sabres. It’s been such a frustrating year for the Sabres, who were really hoping at having a coming out party in 2017-18. Jack Eichel was coming into the season with more experience under his belt, the Sabres acquired Ryan O’Reilly from the Avalanche a couple of years ago, and they finished with a record of 33-37-12 a year ago. No, that isn’t anything that resembles a quality record. However, it could have been something for them to build on. Thus far, anyway, it’s been anything but for the Sabres. They enter Thursday night with a record of 10-24-8, and have gone winless in their last five games.
Eichel was recently selected to the NHL All-Star Game. He is pretty well the only thing keeping the Sabres together. Eichel gets injured, and the Sabres are going to be in for a world of hurt, even worse than it is at the moment. He’s scored 17 goals and 22 assists for the Sabres. And then there is Evander Kane with 16 goals and 35 points.
Kane is certainly not capable of keeping the Sabres afloat, though, if for instance Eichel goes down. Even beyond the ice, Kane is not a leader of any sort. Eichel leads the team in goals, assists, and points. It will probably feel nice for him to get away from the stench of losing in Buffalo, and being surrounded by winners at the All-Star Game. Not that Kane or Ryan O’Reilly are bad players, but that’s where the line is drawn in the sand. The Blue Jackets will look to build off a come from behind victory over the Maple Leafs on Tuesday. Head below for our free Blue Jackets vs. Sabres pick.
Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Buffalo Sabres Pick
There’s going to come a time that Eichel just gets fed up with the Sabres and wants a trade elsewhere. Management has to start putting some pieces around him to keep him happy. Auston Matthews has a supporting cast in Toronto, and then Eichel is left with a bare cupboard in Buffalo. The Sabres are dead last in the NHL, 31st, with 2.23 goals per game. The horrendous Arizona Coyotes are scoring more goals than Buffalo. They’ve also been getting hit hard on defence, as they’ve allowed 3.47 goals per game. In their last ten games, they allowed 3.9 goals per game. In their last four games, the Sabres gave up 5.25 per game, 11 goals in their last two games alone.
Now, their starting goaltender, Robin Lehner, is battling an injury. He’s been trying to play through it, but had to leave against Winnipeg. In went Chad Johnson who struggled as well. Johnson owns an abysmal record of 1-8-3 with a 3.76 GAA and 0.881 save percentage. So, it makes sense that the Sabres are trying to get every little ounce out of an injured Lehner. Lehner’s status for the Blue Jackets is not clear at the moment, but it’s either going to be a banged up Lehner, who hasn’t been spectacular with a 2.76 GAA, or Johnson who can’t stop a beach ball this season. Poor Jack Eichel.
Lehner has given up 4 or more goals in four of his last six outings. How can the Sabres win here? If the Blue Jackets come in feeling a little too high after beating the Maple Leafs in come from behind fashion, there’s going to be an on opportunity here. I don’t think Tortorella allows his team to fall asleep against a bad Buffalo team on Thursday night, though. I’d take a look at the Blue Jackets, with all things considered, is getting a pretty decent price.
PICK: BLUE JACKETS (-135)