Awful Sabres Have to Win Occasionally, So Back Them vs. Jets

sabres jets

Matthew Jordan

Monday, January 8, 2018 4:01 PM UTC

Monday, Jan. 8, 2018 4:01 PM UTC

On paper, it looks like the mismatch of the night in the NHL as the surprisingly good Winnipeg Jets visit the shockingly bad Buffalo Sabres. Should you consider backing the home side?

Winnipeg Jets at Buffalo SabresFree NHL Pick: SabresBest Line Offered: BetOnline

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It’s the only visit of the season to Buffalo for Winnipeg and a 7 p.m. ET puck drop Tuesday. These teams just played last Friday and Winnipeg won at home, 4-3. Blake Wheeler and Jacob Trouba each had a goal and an assist for the Jets. Defenseman Dustin Byfuglien found the net for the first time this season. The Jets were 2-for-4 on the power play and Sabres 0-for-5. Connor Hellebuyck had 26 saves.

Chad Johnson stopped 25 for Buffalo, which was playing the second of a back-to-back. Sabres blueliner Marco Scandella got his first goal of the season in his 41st game and Scott Wilson his first in what was his 29th game of the season. Buffalo had won the previous four meetings.

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Winnipeg A Cup Contender?

Are you even aware how good the Jets (25-11-7) are? They are battling for the most points in the Western Conference and lead the very deep Central Division. Since the franchise moved from Atlanta to Winnipeg for the 2011-12 season, it has reached the playoffs just once: 2015. Last year the Jets finished with 87 points, seven out of the West’s final wild-card spot. Vegas’ Gerard Gallant is probably going to win the Jack Adams Award as NHL Coach of the Year, but Winnipeg’s Paul Maurice deserves consideration as well. The Jets are +600 second-favorites at Bovada to win the West and +1200 for the Stanley Cup.

Most casual hockey fans probably couldn’t even name a Jets player but they are third in the league in scoring at 3.3 goals per game and second on the power play (24.8 percent). Wheeler leads the team with 49 points (14 goals, 35 assists). No. 2 is center Mark Scheifele with 38 points (15 goals, 23 assists), but he’s out another six weeks or so with an upper-body injury. Wheeler has eight points in five games since moving to center after Scheifele was injured.

Winnipeg enters on a two-game winning streak but those were both at home, where the team is a stellar 16-3-1. Its road record is 9-8-6.

Buffalo (10-23-9) was expected to be much improved this season but instead has just 29 points, fewest in the Eastern Conference and better than only Arizona. The Sabres are definitely going to be a seller ahead of the Feb. 26 trade deadline. The top name you hear is co-leading scorer Evander Kane (16 goals, 19 assists) as he’s set for unrestricted free agency after the season. Probably the only untouchable player is Jack Eichel. He got a massive contract extension before this season but has moderately disappointed with 35 points (15 goals, 20 assists).

The Sabres are pretty much bad everywhere, ranking last in scoring (2.2 goals per game), 30th on the power play (11.9 percent), 29th in goals against (3.4 gpg) and 22nd on the penalty kill (80.2 percent). Buffalo has been held under two goals 14 times. It has scored first in just three of the past 11 games and three of those goals are by Ryan O'Reilly in games against Philadelphia. The Sabres still lost two of them. At least the Bills ended the NFL’s longest playoff drought? Naturally, they lost.

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Connor Hellebuyck is 7-0-2 in his last 9, and his @NHLJets are in first place in the Central.

— NHL (@NHL) January 8, 2018

The Verdict

Buffalo has to win once in a while, and it’s more likely to come at home than on the road. The home team has covered 13 of the past 19 in this series. The Jets have been shaky away of late, losing seven of their past nine. It’s also not easy to beat the same team twice in less than a week (non-playoff version). Sabres are good underdog value on Tuesday’s NHL picks.

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