San Jose Sharks at Buffalo Sabres Free NHL Picks, Odds and Predictions
by George Monroy - 2/27/2014
San Jose Sharks (37-16-6, 80 pts) at Buffalo Sabres (16-34-8, 40 points)
NHL Hockey: Friday, February 28, 2014 at 7 p.m. EST (First Niagara Center)
The Buffalo Sabres may be intent on making a late-season playoff push no matter how perilous their situation might seem. Buffalo, who was 25 points behind the final playoff spot in the East, came back from the Olympic hiatus with a renewed sense of urgency toward the season and booked two impressive wins over the Carolina Hurricanes and Boston Bruins this week. If the Sabres can extend that streak with another big win over the San Jose Sharks on Friday night, then it might be time to start looking at Buffalo as a long shot contender for postseason.
San Jose continues to be on the short list of teams favored to win this year’s Stanley Cup. The squad is receiving +800 odds from Sportsbook.ag and is leading the second-tier teams that are considered to be slightly behind the +500 co-favorites in Anaheim, Chicago, St. Louis and Pittsburgh. The Sharks return from the three-week layoff with three straight road games, the second of which will be against the Sabres to kick off the weekend. Let’s take a closer look at the matchup with free picks, predictions and analysis.
San Jose Sharks at Buffalo Sabres Betting Story Lines
San Jose lost four of seven games prior to the break and had fallen prey to the midseason grind of a long NHL schedule. The team is currently sitting in fourth place in the Western Conference standings with 80 points (prior to Thursday’s matchup with Philadelphia) and trails Anaheim by only seven points for the Pacific Division lead. Overall St. Louis is ranked ninth in goals scored with an average of 2.8 per game, fourth in goals allowed with an average of 2.3 and 18th in power-play percentage.
San Jose’ point’s leaders, Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski, have been as consistent of an offensive duo as any other pairing in the NHL. The players have 56 and 54 points, respectively, with Thornton leading the way with 48 assists while Pavelski leads the team with 29 goals. San Jose, however, may be missing a key contributor to its lineup for the rest of the season as rookie forward Tomas Hertl might not return from a knee injury he suffered earlier in the year.
Buffalo’s play over the first two games back from the break has been a pleasant, and shocking, surprise for the team and its fans. The Sabres earned a solid 3-2 victory over Carolina on Tuesday and then beat Boston the very next night in a thrilling overtime matchup. Buffalo’s offense managed to score eight goals in both games combined, while its defense allowed a whopping 71 shot attempts. Ryan Miller stopped 36 shots during his start against Carolina, and he continues to play well even in the face of non-stop trade rumors.
Buffalo’s Zemgus Girgensons scored a goal and recorded an assist during the team’s surprising win over the Bruins. One of the squad’s biggest issues, however, is its poor defense and the large number of shot attempts it allows every night. Buffalo has a solid set of goaltenders, but it continues to put them in compromising positions game after game.
San Jose Sharks at Buffalo Sabres NHL Betting Odds and Key Trends
San Jose opened as a -178 favorite over the +162 underdog Sabres at BetOnline. The total was set at five goals, with the “over” being favored at -116. San Jose is 6-1 in its last seven Friday games and 4-1 in its last five versus the Eastern Conference. The team is also 9-4 in its last 13 overall games but only 2-6 in its last eight road games against teams with a home winning record of less than .400. San Jose has “under” in six of its last seven road games.
Buffalo is 4-1 in its last five matchups against the Western Conference and 2-8 in its last 10 home games. The team is only 1-4 in its last five games against teams with a winning record above .600 and 8-23 in its last 31 games played on one day of rest. Buffalo has gone over in seven of its last nine home games. Head-to-head, Buffalo is 5-0 over the last five matchups between the teams.
San Jose Sharks at Buffalo Sabres Free NHL Picks and Betting Predictions
It’s tempting to jump on the Sabres bandwagon for its mini surge to end February. There is no doubt that the team is clicking on offense, and both of its goaltenders are playing great. The issue, however, is Buffalo’s poor defense, and that will probably come back to haunt it sooner rather than later. The squad has given up an average of 34 shot attempts per game over its last six matchups and gave up 33 and 38 attempts in its last two games. Expect a very good San Jose squad to take advantage of those extra shots and get a win on the road. Take the Sharks on the moneyline.
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