Game Preview: Blue Jackets Seek Second Straight Winning Road Trip, Face Struggling Buffalo Sabres

By Ed Francis on November 22, 2021 at 7:05 am
Back east but not home yet, Columbus travels to Buffalo to wrap up a three-game road trip. Can the Blue Jackets pick up two points against the struggling Sabres?
Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports


Buffalo Sabres
7–8–2 (16 points; .471%)



Entering the season, the expectations for both the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Buffalo Sabres were about as low as it can get.

Nearly six weeks into the season though, and neither team has fallen off the face of the earth as the experts foresaw — yet.

For the Sabres, the word "yet" is a necessary adverb.

The Blue Jackets will look for another 2-1-0 road swing Monday as they take on a Buffalo team that, after a hot start, has struggled mightily in the last two weeks. 

3.20 GOALS FOR 2.82
20.5% POWER PLAY 19.2%
84.4% PENALTY KILL 78.3%
31.6 SHOTS FOR 28.1
52.2% FACEOFF WINS 44.7%
47.0% THE 538'S ODDS TO WIN 53.0%
25.0% THE 538'S PLAYOFF ODDS 6.0%
98.4 82 GAME POINT PACE 77.2

Know the Foe

After three straight wins to open the 2021-22 season and a 5-1-1 record through seven games, the Sabres have crashed back down to earth. Buffalo is 2-6-1 in the month of November, with both wins coming by just one goal.

Scoring goals hasn't been the problem on most nights for Buffalo, but instead it's been defense and goaltending that have squandered the Sabres impressive start. In their last nine games, Buffalo has allowed at least four goals seven times, and have given up precisely five goals in six of them.

One of those games came Sunday night in New York City, where the Sabres lost to the Rangers 5-4 on a New York goal with less than one second remaining. Aaron Dell was in net for the tough loss, and on the second half of a back-to-back, look for Dustin Tokarski to be in net for Buffalo. The 32-year-old has a .909 save percentage on the season and a goals against average of 3.07. 

Buffalo's projected first line of Kyle Okposo, Zemgus Girgensons, and Rasmus Asplund doesn't install the same fear as some other trios would, but as the Blue Jackets also do, the Sabres roll with four lines who see a fairly balanced time on ice. The argument could be made that there is no true "top" line, and the numbers would support that. No Buffalo forward averages more time on ice than center Tage Thompson, but his average of 17:45 is amongst the lowest in league for a team's leading forward's minutes. Thompson leads the team in goals (6), and is tied with Asplund for the team lead in points (11). 

Despite the statistical leaders, forward Victor Olofsson may be the team's biggest scoring threat. The 26-year-old has 40 goals in 125 career games in the NHL, and his five goals this year have come in just nine games. At 1.95, his goals per 60 minutes leads the team by a wide margin; Thompson is second at 1.19 and Jeff Skinner checks in at third at 1.05. The three skated together in Sunday's loss; Thompson had a goal and an assist, while Oloffsson picked up one point with an assist.


  • BURST OUT OF THE GATES: ...and then maintain it. In Saturday's 3-2 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights, the Blue Jackets squandered a great first period by looking flat for the final 40 minutes. Can the Blue Jackets put a complete 60 minute effort in?
  • WIZARDS OF THE FACE OFF: It wasn't that long ago that the Blue Jackets seeme to struggle to win a face off — especially late in a game. Those days appear to be over. The additions of Sean Kuraly and Cole Sillinger have added plenty of skill at the faceoff dot, with Kuraly winning 51.5% of draws and the 18-year-old Sillinger at 49.2%, which is outstanding for a rookie. No one has been bigger on the draw though, than captain Boone Jenner. His 58.5% win percentage is a career best by a country mile, and he's 8th in the entire league this year among qualifying players. Especially in overtime — where the Blue Jackets are a perfect 5-0 this year — winning the draw is crucial. Can Columbus' 9th ranked faceoff win percentage capitlaize on the Sabres league-worse 44.7% win rate?
  • MAD MAX'S FURY ROAD: Between recovering from shoulder surgery to cracked ribs to COVID-19 protocols, it's been a weird little bit for forward Max Domi. After a hot start with four points in the club's first two games of the season, Domi has played in just three games (with no points) due to the rib injury and virus protocols. Regular ice time and health could do both Domi and the Jackets a lot of good if they're going to stay competitive this season; can they take another step in the right direction Monday?

    Projected Lines*

    LW C RW
    59 Yegor Chinakhov 34 Cole Sillinger 93 Jakub Voracek
    14 Gustav Nyquist 38 Boone Jenner 28 Oliver Bjorkstrand
    50 Eric Robinson 7 Sean Kuraly 42 Alexandre Texier
    16 Max Domi 96 Jack Roslovic 17 Justin Danforth
    LD RD
    8 Zach Werenski 22 Jake Bean
    44 Vladislav Gavrikov 2 Andrew Peeke
    5 Gavin Bayreuther 27 Adam Boqvist
    Starting Goalie Backup
    70 Joonas Korpisalo 90 Elvis Merzlikins

    *subject to change