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Game #52 Preview: Jackets look to shake off the cobwebs against Buffalo

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Just like riding a bike, I’m sure!

Buffalo Sabres v Columbus Blue Jackets Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

Saturday, February 1, 2020 - 1:00 EST
KeyBank Center, Buffalo, NY
TV: Fox Sports Ohio; Radio: 97.1 FM
Opponent’s Blog: Die by the Blade

Buffalo Sabres (22-22-7, 51 pts, 6th Atlantic, 14th West)

Hosting

Columbus Blue Jackets (27-16-8, 62 pts, 4th Metro, 6th East)

Oh hey! Long time. The off-week has come to an end. Let’s kick off with a refresher.

Hockey is a sport in which two teams play against each other by trying to manoeuvre a ball or a puck into the opponent’s goal using a hockey stick. There are many types of hockey such as bandy, field hockey, ice hockey and rink hockey. In most of the world, the term hockey by itself refers to field hockey, while in Canada, the United States, Finland, Sweden, Latvia, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, the term usually refers to ice hockey

(source:Wikipedia)

You can do further research on your own, but that should be enough of a start to get through this preview.

The Buffalo Sabres have continued their tradition of hot starts followed by the kind of epic swan dive that gets Chinese divers the gold in every Olympics. They entered their off-week by winning 3 of 4 games. That’s great! However, the long layoff zapped all of that momentum as the Sabres returned to action by losing to Ottawa and Montreal to begin their second half. The Sabres are a thoroughly mediocre team and the big question is…why? They have players that should be good, but every year they cease to click after awhile. I’m sure their fans have plenty of theories. The silver lining with Buffalo, as it has been since he was drafted, is that Jack Eichel continues to produce. Like Artemi Panarin for the Rangers, Eichel is easily the best offensive player on the team. On the other hand, injuries have started to pile up as both Kyle Okposo and Linus Ullmark are expected to miss time for Buffalo.

Buffalo is a good opponent to have when you want to kick things off right. The Jackets hope to avoid the same reset that the Sabres had though. My biggest fear is that the time off negatively impacts Elvis. My biggest hope is that the time off effectively resets the offense. It’s already been increasing a bit, though not necessarily in a way considered ‘sustainable’. I think we’ll know within the next 5-6 games if this Jackets team will fade or not. The team is about as close to healthy as it has been in some time and Josh Anderson is expected to add to that soon – though likely not against Buffalo. Against a team missing their starting goalie and…well, one of their wingers…the Jackets should be able to notch a good result.

Player to Watch

Elvis Merzlikins

Will the time off hurt him? The lack of playing time before Joonas Korpisalo’s injury should be fresh enough in his mind and body that the rust shouldn’t settle in too much. While I think his stats, if not necessarily his play, will regress – I’ll be watching to see how quickly he settles back into his groove. If he doesn’t… hopefully Korpisalo is back soon.

Jackets Notes

We were hopeful that Ryan Murray would be back soon as well, but he still isn’t practicing with the team…Will Chase pointed out all kinds of milestones that could be achieved, though not all in this game…the Jackets kick off a 5-in-8 and 6-in-10 stretch of games…all of them are against teams outside the Metro…

The Other Bench

Eichel has notched at least 1 point in 9 of his last 10 games…Kyle Okposo is out with an upper-body injury…Jean-Sebastian Dea takes his roster spot for now…Linus Ullmark is expected to miss at least 3 weeks…Okposo only has 5-7-12 on the year…Top 10 5v5 save % is good, bottom of the barrel PK is not…

Season Series

07/10/2019 BUF @ CBJ – 4-3 WIN

02/01/2020 CBJ @ BUF

02/13/2020 CBJ @ BUF

Stats

Buffalo Columbus
2.88 (20) GPG 2.71 (24)
3.12 (t-20) GAPG 2.51 (t-2)
19.6% (17) PP% 17.7% (23)
74.2% (t-28) PK% 81.9% (11)
49.0% (t-18) 5v5 Corsi % 48.5% (22)
48.7% (21) 5v5 Fenwick % 50.4% (12)
8.1 (18) 5v5 Shot % 7.3 (27)
.925 (8) 5v5 Save % .933 (1)
Jack Eichel, 30 G Leader BJORKSTRAND, 16
Jack Eichel, 34 A Leader Pierre-Luc Dubois and Seth Jones, 23
Jack Eichel, 64 P Leader Pierre-Luc Dubois, 38
Rasmus Ristolainen, 36 PIM Leader Nick Foligno, 52
14-8-3 Home / Road 11-7-6
5-5-0 Last 10 8-2-0

Possible Lineups

Columbus Blue Jackets
Nathan Gerbe Boone Jenner Emil Bemstrom
Nick Foligno Pierre-Luc Dubois Oliver Bjorkstrand
Gustav Nyquist Alexander Wennberg Cam Atkinson
Jakob Lilja Riley Nash Eric Robinson
Zach Werenski Seth Jones
Vladislav Gavrikov David Savard
Markus Nutivaara Scott Harrington
Elvis Merzlikins
Matiss Kivlenieks
Buffalo Sabres
Jimmy Vesey Jack Eichel Sam Reinhart
Jeff Skinner Marcus Johansson Michael Frolik
Zemgus Girgensons Johan Larsson Conor Sheary
Evan Rodrigues Curtis Lazar Jean-Sebastian Dea
Rasmus Dahlin Brandon Montour
Lawrence Pilut Rasmus Ristolainen
Jake McCabe Henri Jokiharju
Colin Miller
Carter Hutton