The Chicago Blackhawks welcome the Buffalo Sabres to The United Center on Tuesday night, with an attempt by the Blackhawks to wash away the terrible taste of their 8-5 loss at home on Saturday night against the Seattle Kraken.
The Sabres won six in a row to finish off 2022 but they’ve gone 3-3 since while they continue to search for consistency. This will be the second game of a back-to-back for Buffalo after it dropped a 4-1 contest to Florida on Monday night.
The Sabres currently sit on the fringe of a wild card spot in the East. With a record of 21-19-2, they have 44 points and find themselves two points back of the Panthers — who hold the second and final wild card spot — and six points behind both the Islanders and Penguins.
The story for Buffalo this year — and one of the best stories in the entire league — has been the solidification of Tage Thompson as an absolute superstar. He broke out big last year with 68 points (38 G, 30 A) in 78 games and he’s currently on pace to obliterate both of those numbers with 58 points (31 G, 27A) so far in only 41 games, which ranks sixth overall in the NHL scoring race (slotting him just behind Jason Robertson and David Pastrnak).
In addition to Thompson, the Sabres have also seen the emergence of young center Dylan Cozens (14 G, 26 A) and defenseman Rasmus Dahlin, who has finally turned into the points (13 G, 35 A) and possession (highest CF% on the team) monster everyone projected him to be when he was taken No. 1 overall in the 2018 NHL Draft.
Thompson typically centers Alex Tuch — who is having something of a breakout season in his own right (20 G, 25 A) — and a resurgent Jeff Skinner (18 G, 24 A), who are both scoring at a point-per-game pace for the first time in their entire careers.
Buffalo’s biggest question might be in goal, where they utilize a three man rotation of Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (so much fun to type), Eric Comrie and 41 year-old ageless wonder and LOCAL GUY Craig Anderson — who typically only starts one game a week since I’m assuming he’s busy doing vampire stuff the rest of the time.
Buffalo scores a ton (second overall in goals per game) and has a top-five power play, so the Hawks will definitely need to up their defensive effort if they hope to hang with the Sabres.
The Blackhawks shouldn’t see too many changes since Saturday night — except, you know, hopefully not giving up 8 goals.
Tale of the Tape (statistics from this season)
Blackhawks — Statistic — Sabres
42.51% (32nd) — 5-on-5 Corsi For — 51.25% (9th)
34.78% (31st) — 5-on-5 Expected goals for — 50.26% (19th)
2.29 (31st) — Goals per game — 3.79 (2nd)
3.71 (28th) — Goals against per game — 3.48 (24th)
56.4% (1st) — Faceoffs — 45.2% (32nd)
20.5% (20th) — Power play — 27.1% (4th)
74.0% (25th) — Penalty kill — 73.3% (26th)
How to watch
When: 7:30 PM CT
Where: United Center, Chicago, IL
TV: NBC Sports Chicago
Radio: WGN 720
(Line projections and roster updates coming later this afternoon in the Morning Skate Update)