Sabres Projected Lines:
Victor Olofsson – Jack Eichel – Sam Reinhart
Jeff Skinner – Marcus Johansson – Vladimir Sobotka
Jimmy Vesey – Casey Mittelstadt – Conor Sheary
Zemgus Girgensons – Johan Larsson – Kyle Okposo
Jake McCabe – Rasmus Ristolainen
Rasmus Dahlin – Colin Miller
Marco Scandella – Henri Jokiharju
Sharks Projected Lines:
Timo Meier – Logan Couture – Patrick Marleau
Evander Kane – Tomas Hertl – Noah Gregor
Barclay Goodrow – Joe Thornton – Kevin Labanc
Marcus Sorensen – Dylan Gambrell – Melker Karlsson
Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Brent Burns
Brenden Dillon – Erik Karlsson
Mario Ferraro – Tim Heed
3 Keys to the Game
Special Teams Battle
The Sabres won the 5v5 battle on Saturday which helped them defeat the Sharks. However, they really lost the special teams battle. Both teams were given four power play opportunities with the Sharks converting on two and the Sabres converting on none. The Sabres PK unit broke down far too many times which gifted the Sharks with prime scoring opportunities.
It is also worth noting that the Sharks have the top penalty killing unit in the league, stopping 92.9% of power plays. They have only given up two power play goals in 8 games this season. Victor Olofsson was taken off the top power play unit for Saturday’s game, so it will be interesting to see if that changes. The Sharks are great at pressuring shots when on the penalty kill, which is why he was replaced with a playmaker in Marcus Johansson.
The Sabres Top Line
It has been 8 periods of hockey since the Sabres top line has last scored a goal. They managed to find some welcomed scoring depth against the Kings and Sharks which allowed them to walk away with two wins. But, the top unit just looked stagnant against the Sharks. The Sabres only had 6 shots at 5v5 when Jack Eichel was on the ice. The LOG line had more shots than the top line with nearly half of the ice time.
Every top line has an off night every once in a while, but the Sabres really need their top line to be effective on offense to keep this hot streak going. The puck movement and transition game of the top line was mediocre at best on Saturday. Hopefully, they are ready to roll tonight after a solid two-day rest.
Tonight will be the tale of two very different goaltending situations. The Sabres have the 2nd best 5v5 SV% (.955) in the NHL while the Sharks have the 2nd worst (.887). Carter Hutton has been elite in his small sample size this season and has recorded a shutout in his last two starts. It will be interesting to see how long Hutton can keep this hot streak rolling, but the improved defensive play in front of him should help him out.
Martin Jones on the other hand, has not been good for the Sharks. He has a .893 5v5 SV% in 6 games this year and a .895 5v5 SV% in 60 games last season. His 5v5 SV% last season was the worst in the NHL among goaltenders with at least 20 starts. Aaron Dell, the Sharks backup goaltender, has not been better with a .892 5v5 SV% in 3 appearances. It’s pretty clear that goaltending is a major problem in San Jose and the Sabres must take advantage of that.