Spying on the Saboteur: Philadelphia Flyers vs Buffalo Sabres

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It’s the return of “Spying on the Saboteur” to preview that matchup between the Philadelphia Flyers and the visiting Buffalo Sabres from the Wells Fargo Center! After the injuries and other challenges that the Flyers had the play with and overcome, they have momentum. A convincing victory of the Anaheim Ducks keeps the Flyers in the mix for a playoff spot out of the Metropolitan Division. Tonight is a crucial game to stay relevant through the course of the season. All eyes will be on the veterans to see if they can keep producing alongside the young players called up from the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.

At home, the Philadelphia Flyers have a winning percentage of 76.5% and a win tonight would be the twelfth at home, which didn’t happen until 2/2/19 of last season. In this first meeting against the Buffalo Sabres, the Flyers come in with momentum due to their series record in the last three seasons. Philadelphia has won this series for the last three straight years. The Sabres are second in the Atlantic Division while the Flyers are currently fifth in the Metropolitan Division. Philadelphia must establish a lead going into the third period because analytics show that Buffalo simply hasn’t been able to come back in games this season if they trail going into the third.

Carter Hart is the tentative starting goaltender for the Philadelphia Flyers. Across the rink, Carter Hutton looks like he will get the starting nod for Buffalo. In the last ten games, the Flyers hold a 7-3 advantage over the Buffalo Sabres. Last season, Philadelphia won the series, 2-1. On the injury report, the Sabres list Matt Hunwick (IR; neck), Vladimir Sobotka (IR; lower body), and Tage Thompson (IR; upper body.)

Buffalo Sabres – Skaters

Far and away, the offensive machine for the Buffalo Sabres is Jack Eichel. He has 50 points this season, tallying almost as many goals (24) as he has assists (26). The dual-threat can score or be a playmaker. In that total includes four game-winning goals. He is scoring on 18.8% of the shots he takes. When Eichel is on the ice, the Sabres are at their most dangerous because he’s undoubtedly their best player.

The premier defenseman for the Buffalo Sabres is Rasmus Ristolainen. The 25-year-old has tallied 16 points this season, 14 of which have been assists. Most of his offensive output comes during even-strength hockey, but he has been known to pot a goal on the powerplay. Defensively, he stands out because he isn’t afraid to throw his body around. He’s blocked 42 shots this season and has exceeded a hundred hits with 103.

Buffalo Sabres – Goaltender

After a rough outing for Linus Ullmark against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Carter Hutton will likely be starting for the Buffalo Sabres. Wielding a record of 6-5-4, Hutton strikes more as a wildcard. The Sabres don’t exactly know what they are getting when Hutton makes a start. The Philadelphia Flyers could get out to a hot start against Hutton tonight. Hutton maintains a 90.1% save percentage this season and yields a 3.05 goal against average.

Faceoff Possession

Only one of the teams in this game has a team faceoff win percentage over 50%. The Buffalo Sabres are at 45.5% while the Philadelphia Flyers maintain 54.2%. On the Sabres, the best faceoff opportunists are Kyle Okposo, Jean-Sebastien Dea, and Curtis Lazar. For the Flyers, they look to David Kase, Claude Giroux, and Sean Couturier. The advantage here stays with Philadelphia.

Prediction

It’s fair to be confident that the Philadelphia Flyers will get the win tonight against the Buffalo Sabres. Carter Hart wins the goaltender matchup and the defensive focus needs to be on Jack Eichel. If the Flyers stop Eichel, they win tonight. That’s how the Buffalo Sabres offense gets going. By the end of this game, Philadelphia will be a point out of third place in the Metropolitan Division.

Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 pm from the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The money line favors the Philadelphia Flyers at -135 with an over-under set at 6. Follow me at EricReesePSN and Philly Sports Network at PhiladelphiaSN on Twitter!

Mandatory Credit – © Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

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