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Photo Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

WGD #46: Three things to watch for against Buffalo

The Detroit Red Wings play host to Atlantic Division opponent Buffalo Sabres tonight at Little Caesars Arena, fresh off a shootout win over the Senators. Detroit still sits in the cellar of the NHL standings but have played better hockey as of late and tonight’s matchup will be an opportunity to keep the groove going. With that in mind here are the lineups for both sides and three things to watch for.

Projected Lines

Detroit Red Wings

The Wings continue to roll with a feasible top line of Bertuzzi-Larkin-Fabbri, but then the bottom 9 is really rough. Filip Zadina has proven himself to be an NHL player and Valtteri Filppula is still solid (but shouldn’t be a second liner), but outside of that, this forward group is below average, to put it lightly. Defensively, Filip Hronek is Detroit’s bright light and Patrik Nemeth is adequate, but outside of that, things are also frightening.

Detroit are 5-15 SU in their last 20 games. – From our friends at OddsShark.com

Buffalo Sabres

Buffalo’s forward group has similar problems to Detroit’s with injuries to Victor Olofsson and Jeff Skinner. Reinhart and Eichel anchor a very respectable top line, but it becomes slim pickings after that, and there’s no one in the bottom-6 that scares a single opposing team. The Sabres have some solid players on defense but no one has developed into a true top-pair caliber yet.

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Three Thoughts

1.) Home Winning Streak Continues?

The Red Wings have finally strung together a winning streak of sorts here in the 2019-20 season, winning three straight at Little Caesars Arena entering the contest tonight, including their last two games, defeating Montreal on Tuesday and Ottawa on Friday. Most fans were expecting some kind of progression to the mean given how dreadful the first half of the season was and that may be on the verge of happening.

A third straight win overall, and fourth straight at home, would be something to feel good about in a lost season, and could send the team back out onto the road with confidence, as they prepare for a grueling four game stretch (@NYI, vs PIT, FLA, @COL). Notably, Detroit’s powerplay has been significantly better at home than on the road and that could be a reason for this small run of good hockey at home. 

2.) Buffalo on a back-to-back

The Sabres fell yesterday at home against the Canucks by a score of 6-3 and will ride into Detroit on the second night of a back-to-back, having traveled in between. This seemingly could be a recipe for the Red Wings to take advantage of, given they had an off day yesterday with no travel included. Buffalo enters at 19-19-7, and a lot has changed since the last time they came to Detroit. When the Sabres blanked the Wings 2-0 in Hockeytown back on Oct. 25, Buffalo moved to 9-2-1 on the season. Since then, they are 10-17-6, another season where the team has cooled off dramatically after a hot start.

Jack Eichel has finally become a player worthy of being seen close to Connor McDavid’s tier, with 56 points in 43 games, on pace for 102 on the season, but it gets grim in a hurry after that. Victor Olofsson (16 goals) was having a fine rookie season, but is now out for more than a month with an injury. Jeff Skinner regressed hard from last year’s 40 goal campaign but he is also now out for a month with an injury. Rasmus Dahlin continues to be a solid budding defenseman but there isn’t much else on this team besides himself, Eichel, and Sam Reinhart.

3.) Larkin returning to form

For much of the season, the question of “what happened to Dylan Larkin?” has been on the mind of Red Wings fans. Larkin’s surprising regression has been hard to fathom after his stellar 73 point season a year ago. However, Larkin has shown signs of returning to himself from 2018-19 the last few games, with 7 points in his last 7 games, including a goal on Friday night.

With Larkin playing better, the Red Wings have had a bit more of a pulse offensively and with him having feasible line-mates in Tyler Bertuzzi and Robby Fabbri, there is something at least for the Wings to lean on to generate offense. Detroit will look to Larkin to lead them for a stronger second half than the disappointing first half of the campaign, and whether he can continue his hot hand is something to watch tonight. 

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