Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Buffalo Sabres
NHL: Thursday, February 13, KeyBank Center, Buffalo, New York, 7:00 PM ET
The Columbus Blue Jackets head to KeyBank Center on Thursday night to close down their regular-season series with the Buffalo Sabres. Back in October, the Blue Jackets outlasted the Sabres 4-3 in overtime as -115 home favorites, while 12 days ago, the Sabres bounced back and beat the Blue Jackets 2-1 in overtime as -105 home dogs.
Columbus enters this clash after two straight home losses to Colorado and Tampa Bay, but the Blue Jackets have been terrific in 2020. They’ve won 12 of the last 17 games overall. On the other side, the Sabres have been struggling lately, losing six of their previous nine contests overall.
The Blue Jackets forced overtime but still lost to the Lightning on Monday nightAfter a narrow 2-1 home defeat to the Colorado Avalanche this past Saturday, the Blue Jackets lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-1 in overtime on Monday night. Tampa Bay broke the deadlock just 2:29 into the first period, but the Blue Jackets tied the game early in the second thanks to Oliver Bjorkstrand’s 18th goal of the season. However, Nikita Kucherov needed only 31 seconds into overtime to score the game-winner and upset the home fans at Nationwide Arena.
Despite losing two games in a row, the Blue Jackets can be pleased with their recent performance. Both Colorado and Tampa Bay are heavyweight teams, and the Blue Jackets battled bravely to get something from those two encounters. Columbus sits at the fourth spot of the Metropolitan Division standings, two points behind the third-place New York Islanders, but the Blue Jackets hold the top wild card in the Eastern Conference.
While Joonas Korpisalo is still recovering from a knee injury, rookie Elvis Merzlikins continues to guard the cage. Merzlikins is 12-7-5 this season with a 2.19 GAA and a .930 save percentage. He’s started in 16 of Columbus’ previous 18 games. The Blue Jackets are one of the best defensive teams in the NHL, no doubt, surrendering just 2.40 goals per contest (2nd in the league). However, they are also one of the most inefficient teams in hockey, scoring only 2.60 goals per contest (27th in the league).
The Sabers barely outlasted the worst team in the leagueBuffalo is coming off a 3-2 victory to the Detroit Red Wings this past Tuesday. The Sabres trailed twice before Marcus Johansson tied the game at 2-2 late in the second period, while Sam Reinhart netted after just 57 seconds of play in the third period to lift the Sabres over the slumping Red Wings. It was Sam’s 21st goal of the season, while he also had an assist for Johansson’s goal.
The Sabres barely defeated the Red Wings who are the worst team in the NHL by far, and that tells a lot about the Sabres’ current form. Last week, Buffalo lost to Detroit 4-3 in a shootout, while the Sabres have dropped five of their previous seven contests on the home ice. They sit at the sixth spot of the Atlantic Division standings, ten points behind the third-place Toronto Maple Leafs. Also, Buffalo is nine points behind the Philadelphia Flyers in the wild-card race.
If they want to reach the postseason, the Sabres have to improve as soon as possible. They are 21st in the league in goals scored per game (2.82) and 19th in goals against (3.09). The Sabres are without their first goaltender Linus Ullmark who’s 16-14-3 on the season with a 2.72 GAA and a .914 save percentage. Carter Hutton should guard the cage against the Blue Jackets, and he’s 9-9-4 this season with a 3.18 GAA and a .896 save percentage.
The top supporting trends for this game, found on Oddsshark.com, are: Columbus:
- 9-3 in the last 12 games overall
- 9-2 in the last 11 games against the Eastern Conference
- 8-4 in the last 12 contests against Buffalo
- 3-6 in the last nine games overall
- 2-5 in the last seven games at home
- 5-12 in the last 17 contests against the Metropolitan Division