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Photo Credit: Rick Osentoski

WGD #55: Three things to watch for against Buffalo

As tough as this season has been for the Red Wings, nothing can compare to the meltdown ongoing in Buffalo right now. An ugly midseason stretch appears to have cost the Sabres a chance at the playoffs. No postseason hockey would extend the NHL’s longest active playoff drought to nine seasons. In fact, they are even approaching the Florida Panthers all-time record of 10 straight seasons failing to qualify for the playoffs.

So things are not going well in Buffalo, to say the least. They’re a vulnerable opponent for the struggling Red Wings to get back on track. Detroit has lost nine games in a row. Not to mention they haven’t scored a goal in the last 129 minutes.

Projected Lines

Detroit Red Wings

Blender: Activated.

Tough times calls for tough measures, as seems to be the approach Jeff Blashill is taking. The Red Wings top three forwards — Dylan Larkin, Tyler Bertuzzi, and Andreas Athanasiou — have been spread out on three separate lines. Also, joining the forward group is Taro Hirose. Hirose was recalled ealier in the week and will be reacquainted on the third line.

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Making his NHL debut is Gustav Lindstrom. Alongside the Hirose recall, Lindstrom was brought up to fill in for the injured Mike Green. Lindstrom plays a quiet, stay-at-home type of game.

What do the Red Wings have in Gustav Lindstrom?

Buffalo Sabres

It’s quite puzzling that the Sabres have struggled as much as they have with this lineup. On paper, they have a roster that should be competing for the Atlantic Division title. Alas, things have not gone according to plan, and that’s with Jack Eichel playing at an MVP level.

A new addition to the team since the last time these two clubs met is Michael Frolik. The veteran forward was acquired to fill a depth role. He’s slotting in on the second line.

Three Thoughts

1.) Lindstrom’s debut

Many eyes will be on Lindstrom tonight, as the 21-year-old takes the NHL ice for the first time. He’s expected to start on a pair with Trevor Daley. Most likely being on the third pair, expect to see him in sheltered minutes. What that also means is Alex Biega will be vaulted up into the top-4. Fasten your seat belts, folks.

A quick look at Lindstrom’s season to date, he’s amassed five assists in 45 games with the Grand Rapids Griffins. At times he’s played on the second powerplay unit and has been a regular all season long. Quite impressive, considering the slight longjam in GR.

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2.) Worst contract in the NHL?

Fans of the Red Wings are oh so familiar with bad contracts. They have a number of them today but the cake for worst in the entire league might reside on the opponent’s side. Jeff Skinner enjoyed a 40-goal campaign in 2018-19 and GM Jason Botterill rewarded him with a lucrative 8-year contract at an AAV of $9m.

The early returns have been…ugly. Skinner has just 11 goals and 19 points in 43 games. That is a frightening stat-line when you consider Skinner has seven years remaining after this one and is already 27. Yikes. Good luck with that one, Buffalo.

3.) Dahlin out

Despite what is another lost season for the Sabres, there is still great hope for the future. A large portion of that is due to Rasmus Dahlin. The No. 1 pick in 2018, Dahlin had a stand-out 2018-19 as an 18-year-old blue-liner. If not already, he should be a Norris caliber defenseman in the near future.

Unfortunately, though, Dahlin is questionable for tonight’s game, with the brass leaning more towards out. That’s a big time loss. Brandon Montour and Rasmus Ristolainen will be asked to shoulder most of the load while he is sidelined.

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