The Buffalo Sabres will host the Chicago Blackhawks tomorrow as part of the regular NHL championship.
The Buffalo Sabres are in a bid for victories, seeking to improve their positions in the Eastern Conference. They recently broke their three-match losing streak, securing a win over the Colorado Avalanche with a score of 4:3 thanks to the key contribution from Casey Mittelstadt, who landed a goal and made 2 assists, while goalkeeper Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen deflected 28 throws, achieving his second shutout of his career. Since the beginning of December, the Sabres have shown a 9-7-2 performance, albeit at home they play with a 10-11-1 record.
However, they struggle with maintaining consistency, having not won two home matches in a row since last season. Luukkonen has been a pivotal figure in Buffalo's past 3 games, averaging 1.40 goals against. Meanwhile, the team's newcomer, Devon Levi, boasts a 3.90 goals-against average and a 2-3-0 record in his last six matches. In their upcoming meetup against the Chicago Blackhawks, Buffalo aims to end a 16-game losing streak on the road, relying on strong results from their last home game. This season, the Sabres have averaged 3.16 goals per game, using 23.1% of their power-play opportunities.
Facing significant difficulties in the current NHL season, the Chicago Blackhawks strive to find a path to better results despite a series of injuries to key players. They recently snapped a three-match losing streak by beating San Jose in a penalty shootout, with a final score of 2:1. That was only their fourth victory in the last 18 matches. The team is bereft of crucial forwards Connor Bedard, Tyler Johnson, Nick Foligno, and Andreas Athanasiu, each of whom has scored a goal in the last four matches.
The team's leading player, youngster Connor Bedard, is out for 6-8 weeks due to a jaw fracture. Despite his contribution to the team with 15 goals and 17 assists, Bedard has encountered an unpleasant injury for the first time in his career. Head coach Luke Richardson has expressed confidence in Bedard's quick return to the ice. The team has struggled with defensive issues, impacting their recent results. Russian defender Nikita Zaitsev has yet to significantly enhance the team's attack with his 2 goals and 5 assists.
In the regular championship, the rivals met once on November 20, with Buffalo claiming victory with a score of 3:2, featuring the winning goal by Johnson in the 3rd period.
I expect Buffalo to secure its second consecutive home victory for the first time in a long time since the season's start. Without Bedard, Chicago faces mounting problems, and even with him, the Blackhawks' results have been far from optimal. Finn Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen has performed phenomenally in recent matches, leading in the number of shutouts this NHL season.