The lowly Buffalo Sabres are looking for an upset in Pittsburgh against the Penguins on Wednesday night at PPG Paints Arena. We’ve seen some disappointing seasons from the Sabres in recent memory, but this has to be the worst yet during the Jack Eichel era. His talent has been wasting away on this team, and I think it has reached its apex during the 2021 campaign.
The Sabres head into Pittsburgh for a back-to-back series with a record of 6-20-4. They’ve recorded just 16 points in the East Division and 12 points behind the second-last New Jersey Devils. Yikes. Now, the injuries are piling up for the Sabres, with Eichel recently landing on the IR with a neck injury.
Eichel is not expected back until at least next week. Whether he remains a Sabre by the end of the season is up for debate. The Sabres have made it clear he’s available, but they’re not going to give him up for nothing. They reportedly want a whopping four first-round selections in return for Eichel. Eichel isn’t the only Sabre nursing an injury.
Kyle Okposo is not travelling with the Sabres during this road trip, while three blue liners are listed on the injury report. Jake McCabe is done for the reason, William Borgen won’t be back until late April with a forearm injury, and Colin Miller is questionable to play in Pittsburgh this evening. To make matters worse, the Sabres are down both goaltenders.
Starter Linus Ullmark and Carter Hutton are injury casualties and will be unavailable between the pipes tonight. That leaves the Sabres going to the AHL, where Dustin Tokarski has been called up to get the starting nod. The 31-year-old has made just one start this season, and 27 starts throughout his career, which began in the 2009-2010 season with Tampa Bay.
The Penguins have injuries of their own to contend with, including Evgeni Malkin, who is on the shelf with a lower-body injury. Brandon Tanev is listed as questionable, while Teddy Blueger is out indefinitely with an upper-body injury. Head below for our free Sabres vs. Penguins pick on March 24, 2021.
Buffalo Sabres vs. Pittsburgh Penguins NHL Betting Odds:
Sabres vs. Penguins Prediction:
The Penguins are dealing with injury issues, but the problem is much more severe for the Sabres. Pittsburgh can steady the tide and keep their heads above water while they get healthier, though Buffalo doesn’t exactly have that luxury. They are sinking and going down to the floor of the ocean fast.
The Sabres have lost a staggering 14 straight games, and it’s likely not going to get any better now that Carter Hutton joins Linus Ullmark out of action. Two of those losses were against the Penguins on March 11, 5-2, and March 13, 3-0. The Sabres will throw Tokarski into the fire and hope for the best. If Tokarski had a team to work with, I’m sure that this would be less of a pressing concern. However, Tokarski has an empty lineup in front of him on the ice.
Tokarski made one appearance this season against the Rangers on Monday. He was pressed into action after Hutton went down and handled most of the load. Tokarski was touched up for 4 goals on 37 shots to finish with a 0.892 save percentage and 4.26 GAA. Through 27 starts and a total of 35 appearances in his career, Tokarski owns a 2.88 GAA and 0.904 save percentage. In his last season in the NHL, he posted a 3.18 GAA and 0.878 save percentage in 2015-16 with the Canadiens.
The defence has been getting shelled no matter who has been in the crease for the Sabres. They’ve conceded 3.5 goals per game for 29th in the league. The offence has been in even worse shape, with 2.1 goals per game in the 2021 season. With Eichel and the lineup riddled with injuries, it’s likely not going to get any better for the Sabres in Pittsburgh. Tristan Jarry has been solid against the Sabres in his career through four outings. He owns a 2.00 GAA and 0.931 save percentage versus the Sabres. A 4-2 or 5-2 win for the Penguins is how I see this one playing out.