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GAME PREVIEW: Edmonton Oilers vs. Buffalo Sabres

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Oilers hit the road in the new year after a wild finish to 2019

New York Rangers v Edmonton Oilers
James Neal had a four point night in a wild Oilers win on New Year’s Eve
Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images

Edmonton Oilers (21-17-4) 4th, Pacific vs

Buffalo Sabres (17-17-7) 6th, Atlantic

02 January 2020

Key Bank Center

500 PM MST

TV: Sportsnet West

Radio: 630 CHED

SB Nation Opponent: Die By The Blade

A WILD FINISH

The Oilers closed out the 2019 calendar year with a wild finish over the New York Rangers. Edmonton would score early and often. James Neal scored his first goal of the game just eleven seconds in. Neal would make it 2-0 Oilers with a power play tally eight minutes later. Before too long, James Neal would have a hat trick, Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Josh Archibald would have goals for the Oilers. That’s a six pack. The Oilers were leading an NHL club by six goals to none. What’s the worst thing that could happen?

The answer to that is: the Rangers would score five goals. It made for some interesting times. Future rental player Chris Krieder would score one in the second period to draw the score to 6-1. The Rangers would score four more to pull it to 6-5 with just under four minutes remaining. Then, Kailer Yamamoto would score the nicest empty net goal you’ve seen all year.

I don’t know if I can do another one of those tonight. Time marches on. The Oilers are in Buffalo to kick off a five game roadie. They’re right in the thick of things in the Pacific playoff race. Can they pick up two points against a slumping Sabres crew that’s lost four straight?

Let’s go to the tape.

THE OILERS ARE SAYING

“When I scored that [6-0 goal] I never would have thought it would have been the game-winning goal.”

Source

That’s Josh Archibald after Edmonton’s wild 7-5 win over the New York Rangers on Tuesday night.

You’ll take two points any way you can get them, though this game was a roller coaster. The goal was Archibald’s third of the season in 33 games.

THE SABRES ARE SAYING

We’ve got to get back to the fundamentals and we’ve got to get back to the basics, and over and over again, and work on that until we get it going the right way.

Source

That’s Sabres coach Ralph Krueger after his club’s 6-4 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night.

Buffalo’s game against Tampa Bay was somewhat similar to the Oilers’ game against the Rangers. The Sabres built up a 4-1 lead on Tampa before conceding five unanswered goals.

Buffalo has now lost four straight, they are 1-6-1 in their last eight.

HAVE SOME OF THIS

  • Let’s talk about things you don’t really need: this. The Oilers do not need a leg injury to Oscar Klefbom right now. Klefbom left the Rangers game after blocking a shot in the third period, we have yet to hear an update. Hoping it’s a bruise; anything long term spells big trouble for the defence.
  • The Oilers will need to pay attention to Jack Eichel. The second selection in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft has 53 points in 40 games for the Sabres this year. Victor Olofsson ranks second with 34 points (16-18-34) in 41. With Sam Reinhart on the right side of this line, it’s a trio that the Oilers need to make note of.
  • STRANGE BREW: Edmonton and the Sabres are averaging the exact same number of goals per game, at 2.93. They are allowing the exact same number of goals per game, at 3.17 per game.
  • SPECIAL TEAMS TO THE RESCUE: If we can overlook the slight issue of giving up five straight goals to the Rangers on Tuesday, there’s lots to like from the offence. Three of six on the power play is a pretty good night, it helps keep Edmonton’s power play percentage atop the league at just over 30%.
  • NO SKIN IN THE GAME: The Sabres will be missing one of their most dynamic playmakers in this evening’s contest, as Jeff Skinner will be out of the lineup as he recovers from an upper body injury. Skinner signed an eight year deal valued at 9MM AAV over the offseason after putting up 40 goals in 2018-19.
  • NET GAINS: The Oilers are playing five games over the next nine nights, so you’ve got to account for Mike Smith (7-9-2, .893 SV% / 1 SO / 3.12 GAA) to get one of the games. Might it be tonight? Mikko Koskinen (14-8-2, .912 SV% / 1 SO / 2,.85 GAA) has had the lion’s share of duty for the past few weeks. Look for the Sabres to counter with Linus Ullmark (11-11-3, .909 SV% / 1 SO / 2.90 GAA), they may counter with Carter Hutton (6-6-4, .894 SV% / 2 SO / .894 SV%).
  • SICK BAY: Matthew Benning inches closer to a return, though as of this writing he has not yet been cleared (head). Oscar Klefbom’s status is up in the air after blocking a shot (leg). The Sabres are without Jeff Skinner, Vladimir Sobotka, and Tage Thompson, who are out with various ailments. Defenceman Marco Scandella is day-to-day with an illness.