Red Wings an Easy Call vs. Short-Handed & Lousy Sabres

Matthew Jordan

Wednesday, February 21, 2018 5:30 PM UTC

Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018 5:30 PM UTC

Both the Buffalo Sabres and Detroit Red Wings are counting the days until the end of the season as they meet in Motown on Thursday night (7:30 ET).

Buffalo Sabres (45 points) at Detroit Red Wings (57 points)Free NHL Pick: Red WingsBest Line Offered: BetOnline

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There are 11 games on Thursday’s NHL schedule, and the worst matchup is probably Buffalo at Detroit, two clubs with an eye more on the draft lottery than the Stanley Cup playoffs. But when you find value, you jump on it. And betting against the Sabres is a no-brainer right now (meaning they surely will win Thursday now).

It’s the third of four meetings between these cities separated by only about 255 miles – it’s a much quicker drive going through Canada than Ohio. On Oct. 24 in Buffalo, the Sabres beat the Wings 1-0; that’s Buffalo’s only 1-0 win of the entire season. Robin Lehner had 32 saves in the shutout and Benoit Pouliot the lone goal in the second period. Jimmy Howard was the tough-luck loser for Detroit.

On Nov. 17 at Detroit’s new Little Caesars Arena, the Wings beat the Sabres 3-1. Tomas Tatar scored the goal-ahead goal at 8:36 of the third. Luke Glendening and Dylan Larkin also scored for Detroit, and Howard had to make only 19 saves. Lehner stopped 30 shots for Buffalo.

The Sabres have won just four of their past 20 visits to the Motor City.

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Teams Playing Out The String

For lack of a better word, Buffalo sucks. The Sabres have just 45 points (-2,006 NHL betting units), which is by far the fewest in the Eastern Conference and ahead of only Arizona. Buffalo’s goals differential of minus-55 is the worst as are its 2.4 goals per game scoring average. Not like the goaltending is any better with the team ranking 29th in goals-against. Only two players on the Sabres who have played in double-digit games have a positive plus/minus: Casey Nelson and Nicholas Baptiste are both plus-1 and they have played just 16 and 11 games, respectively.

The team, on a three-game losing streak, also is without three key players in franchise center Jack Eichel and defensemen Zach Bogosian and Jake McCabe. Only Eichel is expected back this season, but he hasn’t played since Feb. 10 due to an ankle injury. He leads the team in points (53) and goals (22). McCabe hasn’t seen the ice since Feb. 6 due to shoulder trouble and decided to have season-ending surgery this week so he can be ready by the start of the 2018-19 season. McCabe had 12 points and averaged 19:30 of ice time in 53 games. Bogosian had season-ending hip surgery in January.

Not clear as of this writing if it will be Lehner or Chad Johnson in net for Buffalo. Lehner had been dealing with a hip injury but was to practice fully Wednesday and travel with the team. He has been mentioned in trade talks. Probably doesn’t matter whether it’s Lehner, who is 12-22-8 with a 2.95 GAA and .910 SV or Johnson, who is 4-10-3 with a 3.41 GAA and .890 SV – it does sound as if Lehner will return barring a setback/trade.

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#RedWings lose a close one tonight at Little Caesars Arena. We'll be back here Thursday night with Buffalo in town.

Stats: https://t.co/i90T18kJui
Highlights: https://t.co/7E07GV7KlG pic.twitter.com/Vk7tnQivdm

— Detroit Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) February 21, 2018
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The Red Wings had their amazing playoff streak snapped last season and won’t be there this year with just 57 points. Detroit hasn’t been great at its new arena, going 12-13-7 on the season. The Wings are sellers ahead of next Monday’s trade deadline and shipped No. 2 goaltender Petr Mrazek to Philadelphia on Tuesday for two conditional draft picks. Mrazek had been playing well of late, going 5-2-2 in his past 10 appearances with a 2.01 GAA and .937 SV.

Howard should get the majority of starts the rest of the way. He surrendered three goals on 29 shots in Tuesday's 3-2 loss to the Nashville Predators. In his career against Buffalo, Howard is 9-1-1 with a 1.38 GAA and .945 SV in 12 games.

Buffalo won’t go winless the rest of the season, but you shouldn’t be betting the Sabres at all away from home. Back Detroit on Thursday’s NHL pick.

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