Back at home tonight, the Red Wings hope to finally snap this six game losing streak. That’ll be a difficult task, however, as the Buffalo Sabres stroll in town, sitting at the very top of the Eastern Conference standings. Going 8-2-1 to start the season, the Sabres are red hot right now, but that’s not good enough for this Buffalo team, who missed the playoffs last season after a similar start. They’ve really adopted the mindset of “its a marathon, not a sprint.”

Statistical wise, this looks like a complete mismatch for the Red Wings. Buffalo’s 5th ranked offense taking on Detroit’s 30th rank defense sounds scary in itself.

Projected Lines

Detroit Red Wings

The Detroit lineup has been decimated by injuries. Justin Abdelkader, Adam Erne, Luke Glendening, and Danny DeKeyser are all out. So that makes way for Givani Smith to draw in the lineup, after being recalled Friday morning. Smith will be making his NHL debut. Evgeny Svechnikov will also be playing, now being bumped up to the third line. The Russian forward had a standout game in Ottawa, albeit, in limited minutes.

An interesting combination to watch is the second pair of Dennis Cholowski and Filip Hronek. The two youngsters play an exciting brand of hockey, however, both are relatively inexperienced.

In the starters net: Jimmy Howard.

The total has gone UNDER in 7 of Detroit’s last 10 games against Buffalo. – OddsShark fun facts

Buffalo Sabres

After years of rebuilding and collecting premium players such as Jack Eichel and Rasmus Dahlin, the Sabres went out and make some subtle, but also noteworthy moves. They went out and traded for the emerging Henri Jokiharju from the Blackhawks, and picked up Jimmy Vesey as well. In free agency they signed veteran Marcus Johansson, who fits in well with their style of play.

The defense is starting to take form, headlined by superstar Rasmus Dahlin. Soon, if not already, Dahlin will be playing at a Norris-caliber level. The Swedish phenom made a strong case for the Calder Trophy last season, quite impressive for an 18-year-old

Three Thoughts

1.) Buffalo’s Powerplay

The Buffalo powerplay has played a huge role in their hot start. Ranking 4th in the league with a PP% of 28.6, they could feast on Detroit’s 26th ranked penalty kill. With so many high-end weapons at their disposal, they’ve been able to exceed expectations.

Graphic via HockeyViz

Looking at how they’ve performed in terms of shot quality and quantity, they have not been as dangerous as the numbers suggest. A big part in the success they’ve been having in the addition of rookie Victor Olofsson, who owns a lethal shot. He leads the league in powerplay goals with 6 and ranks third in powerplay points with 7.

2.) The Third Pair

Because of the DeKeyser injury we will be seeing both Trevor Daley and Madison Bowey play in this game. Jeff Blashill has opted to pair them together on the third pair, which could be trouble. Daley’s play has deteriorated with age, now being view as one of the NHL’s worst defenders. In Bowey’s case, he has struggled in his own end, and at times, has lost the confidence of Blashill.

If the Sabres are smart, they’ll look to get their big guns out on the ice when these two sub in. It could be a long day for the Daley-Bowey pair.

 3.) Givani Smith’s Debut

Smith coming in to make his NHL debut is certainly exciting. He plays with energy and urgency that will be a welcomed addition to the Detroit bench. Fans just might be tuning in to get a glimpse of him alone. With Glendening out for 2-4 weeks, a strong performance today could grant Smith a few extra looks from the coaching staff.

However, coming in on the fourth line, his minutes will be monitored. Expect his TOI to be in the ball park of around 10 minutes.