The NHL will pick back up on Monday night with six games on the board. One of the games is an always anticipated matchup between the Buffalo Sabres and Edmonton Oilers. This is a battle between the first two picks in the 2015 draft. It will be the free game of the night on NHL.com. The game is set to start at 9:00 PM Eastern time.
Buffalo jumped out to a fast start this season, but have since slowed down a little bit. The Sabres currently have a record of 23-16-6, which has them in fifth place of the Atlantic Division. Buffalo is currently tied for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference and one point behind the Canadiens for the first wild card spot. The Sabres have lost two games in a row and three of their last four. Buffalo will look to bounce back with a road win against the Oilers.
The Oilers have started this season with a record of 21-21-3, which has them in fifth place of the Pacific Division. Edmonton is one point behind the Anaheim Ducks for the final wild card spot in the Western Conference. The Oilers are coming off of a loss against the Arizona Coyotes in their last game and have dropped two of their last three contests.
Monday night’s matchup between the Sabres and the Oilers will be the first matchup of the season series. Buffalo and Edmonton will meet one more time on March 4. These two teams are right outside the playoff picture, which means they both need to turn it on if they want to keep tight in the race. This is an important and winnable game for both organizations.
Last Season’s Matchups
Buffalo hosted the first matchup of the season series between these two teams last season. The Oilers lone goal scorer was Yohann Auvitu. Kyle Okposo had a goal and an assist for the Sabres. Evander Kane and Rasmus Ristolainen each had two assists to help propel Buffalo towards the win. Robin Lehner turned away 29 of 30 shots to give the Sabres a 3-1 win at home.
The second matchup of the season series was hosted by Edmonton. Jack Eichel helped lead the Sabres to a dominant win on the road. Eichel had a goal and three assists. Sam Reinhart had a goal and two assists, while Ryan O’Reilly scored twice. Robin Lehner had a 33 shot shutout to help give Buffalo a 5-0 win on the road to close out the season series.
Since the 2015 draft, Buffalo has gone 4-2 against the Oilers. The Sabres swept the season series last season. Neither team went on to make the playoffs and Buffalo finished dead last in the NHL standings. Both teams are more competitive this season and I believe it will lead to a tightly contested matchup on Monday night.
The Sabres have been doing alright on special teams this season. Buffalo’s power play has not been great, scoring at a rate of 18.1 percent so far this season. The Sabres penalty kill has been doing much better this season. Buffalo’s penalty kill has stopped their opponent’s power play chances 83.7 percent of the time.
Edmonton’s special teams have been working in opposite ways of the Sabres. The Oilers power play has been doing a solid job, scoring on 20.8 percent of their chances. Edmonton’s penalty kill has stopped opposing teams on 77 percent of their power play chances, which is not great.
I would give the edge to Buffalo on special teams in this matchup. The Sabres have been better overall due to their stronger penalty kill. I believe that Buffalo’s penalty kill will have a solid chance to stop the Oilers power play. The Sabres power play will also have a chance to get working going up against Edmonton’s struggling penalty kill.
I expect Carter Hutton to get the start in net for the Sabres. Hutton has been a solid backbone for this team this season, which Buffalo has been missing in their previous seasons. He has a record of 14-13-3 in his 30 games played. Hutton has a .916 save percentage and a GAA of 2.62 this season. He will look to put up a solid performance on the road on Monday night.
Mikko Koskinen will likely get the nod in net for Edmonton. Koskinen has a record of 12-8-1 in his starts this season. He has a save percentage of .913 and a 2.72 GAA in his games played. Koskinen has been doing a great job stepping up for a struggling Cam Talbot in net and it has helped keep the Oilers alive in the playoff picture.
Both of these goalies have put up similar numbers this season. Koskinen has a better record, but save percentage and GAA goes to Hutton. Buffalo will need to continue to slow down Connor McDavid like they did last season. If the Sabres can slow down McDavid, I believe it will give Hutton a good chance to put up a strong night against the Oilers.
Buffalo has done really good against Edmonton in the last couple of seasons and I believe they have a good chance to get it done again on Monday night. The Sabres have a better lineup depth wise, whereas Edmonton relies heavily on Connor McDavid to get a lot of their offense going. Buffalo also has done better on special teams and has a slight edge in net. I believe this will help lead to a road upset.
BetOnline has Edmonton listed as a -120 against the money line. The Oilers are at home and I believe they should be favored. I think that Buffalo has the better team overall though and this gives them a lot of value. The Sabres have done a good job in the past shutting down McDavid and if they can do it again, I believe they pull off the upset on the road.