The Buffalo Sabres head to Dallas and then Nashville to conclude the first-half of the regular season. The Sabres will go on their All-Star break a bit early, as Saturday will be their final game before January 28th against the Ottawa Senators. The Sabres have played like an average team this season, and are going to really need a hot run after the break to reach the playoffs.
Buffalo enters Texas with a record of 21-19-7 and 49 points in the Atlantic Division. They’re 17 points back of the Boston Bruins, which is going to be a mountain too high to climb for a comeback. However, the Sabres still have a chance to cling on as a wildcard in the Eastern Conference. I’m not saying it’s a good chance, but there’s an opening there.
Buffalo are 7 points behind the Philadelphia Flyers and Carolina Hurricanes for a wildcard. The Flyers picked up two huge points in St. Louis last night with a 4-3 win in overtime. They were able to capitalize on the power-play and that was effectively the difference in the game. A late boneheaded penalty in the 2nd period allowed the Flyers to strike early in the 3rd to take a 3-1 lead.
There are going to be several teams that are going to be difficult for the Sabres to catch. Ahead of the Sabres are the Panthers and Blue Jackets as well. If Sergei Bobrovsky catches fire, the Panthers will undoubtedly be out of reach. Getting Jeff Skinner back in the lineup for the Sabres should help, though.
The former Hurricane was injured in late December with an upper-body injury, prompting him to sit down for at least a few weeks. Skinner has not been in a groove this season, and for the Sabres to get going, he’s going to have to as well. Skinner led the NHL in scoring at one point last season and finished with 40 goals and 23 assists. As he looks to get healthier, Skinner has just 11 goals and 8 assists. That is going to have to change, and maybe the time off with the injury gives him a jolt.
As far as the Stars are concerned, they’re looking good with 58 points and a record of 27-15-4. The Stars have only two more games before their break as well. They’ll host the Stars and then fly to Minnesota for a meeting with the Wild on Saturday night. Dallas are ten points behind the Blues in the Central Division, while the Jets and Avalanche are within 4 points behind them. Head below for our free Sabres vs. Stars pick.
Buffalo Sabres vs. Dallas Stars Betting Odds:
Sabres vs. Stars Prediction:
The Stars philosophy to success is pretty simple. They may not light the scoreboard up like the Maple Leafs or Panthers, but they can ugly a game up and win an entirely different kind of hockey game. If you’re looking for high-scoring up-tempo games, the Stars shouldn’t be a team that you follow. In any event, I still like physical games where every goal means a lot. The Stars play in plenty of games like that and find success with it.
Armed with a solid tandem in the crease, the Stars have been one of the best defensive teams in the NHL. Ben Bishop rolls into Thursday night with a rock solid GAA of 2.23 and 0.93 save percentage. He has been strong in particular at home, where he sports a 1.91 GAA and 0.939 save percentage.
Dallas leads the NHL with 2.33 goals against per game. The NHL has become a fast paced offensive game the past two years, but a solid defensive effort has remained constant for the Stars. That wasn’t always the case. In fact, just five or so years ago, the Stars were playing with one of the worst defences in the league.
While their offence would score a lot, they couldn’t get any stops and didn’t get into the playoffs. They’ve been making better ground with this defensive game plan than in the past. The Sabres have struggled to find goals on the road, and that should continue on Thursday night.
The Sabres have turned the red light on average of only 2.5 times per game as a visitor. They’ve also struggled to stop teams in their defensive zone. Note that the Sabres have yielded 3.5 goals against on the road. It’s going to be incredibly difficult to buck that trend in Dallas, a place they’ve notoriously been terrible.
The Stars are 7-0 against the Sabres in their last seven meetings at home. Also note that the Stars are 5-1 in their last six meetings overall. The Sabres did win their first matchup this season, though that was only their first win against the Stars in six games. Prior to that win, the Sabres scored an average of only 1 goal per game in five games. This looks like another win for the Stars, where they should notch two points in regulation for their ninth victory in ten outings.