The Chicago Blackhawks are heavy favorites on Thursday night as they host the Buffalo Sabres on NBCSN. Chicago leads the Central Division but they are coming off a loss in the Winter Classic on Monday in St. Louis while the Sabres are in last place in the Atlantic Division and coming off a game in New York on Tuesday. It has been nothing but misery for the Sabres recently against the Blackhawks in this series as they have lost the last nine meetings.
This war on the ice will go down Thursday, January 5, 2017 at 8:30 p.m. ET at the United Center. The game will be televised live on NBCSN.
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The Blackhawks are going to be big favorites in this game with the line probably approaching -300. Buffalo has been awful in this series and the Sabres haven’t been good on the road this season going 6-12 in their first 18 road games. The Blackhawks are 13-8 at home this season but it is worth noting that they have dropped their past two home games against inferior opponents losing 2-1 to Colorado and 3-1 to Winnipeg.
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If the Sabres are going to win this game then Jack Eichel will likely be leading the way. Eichel read his team the riot act after a recent loss to Boston and it will be interesting to see how his teammates react. “At the end of the day it’s about one thing and one thing only, and that’s winning hockey games,” he said. “However that needs to happen, it needs to happen.”
Eichel has not given up on the season even with the Sabres in last place. “I don’t think we’ve hit the halfway point yet,” Eichel said Sunday. “I’m sure not giving up on this, and I don’t think anyone else is. Have we” frittered “away some good opportunities for ourselves to put ourselves in a good position? Yes, but there’s still a lot of hockey to be played.”
Eichel pretty much called out his teammates for their play. “As a whole team, everyone needs to look in the mirror and we all need to get a lot better,” he said. “I think I speak for the team in saying that we’re all frustrated with where we’re at, and I don’t think I’m the only person in the locker room that’s not satisfied.”
Buffalo’s head coach Dan Bylsma said that his team has the ability to turn things around. “If we play how we can and we win hockey games at the rate we can, it can put us in that area where we think we’re going to need to be to be in playoff consideration,” Bylsma said. “That’s really got to be the focus for us here.”
The Sabres would be better off going with their backup goaltender as Anders Nilsson has better numbers than starter Robin Lehner. Nilsson is 5-6 on the season with a 2.47 goals against average while Lehner is 8-17 with a 2.51 goals against average.
The Blackhawks could decide to go with backup Scott Darling in this spot considering the Sabres are considered a weak opponent. Darling is 10-6 on the season with a 2.39 goals against average while starter Corey Crawford is 13-11 with a 2.31 goals against average.
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As noted earlier, the Blackhawks have dominated this series winning the last nine meetings. Chicago has also won the last six at home in this series with two of the last three going under.
I don’t know that this will be an easy game for Chicago although they should still win. I definitely don’t want to lay 3-1 so I will avoid a side and just take the game over the total.
NHL Odds: Blackhawks 4, Sabres 3
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