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Preview: St. Louis Blues at Buffalo Sabres

Blues goaltender Jake Allen (34) moves to make a glove save against Sabres forward Johan Larsson (22). (Photo Courtesy: Gary Weipert, AP Photo)

Buffalo, NY – Ryan O’Reilly will face off at Keybank Center for the first time since being traded. The St. Louis Blues (37-27-7) face off against the Buffalo Sabres (30-32-9) for their second and final meeting this season. The Blues played Buffalo at home in late December, getting a 4-1 victory against their former goaltender Carter Hutton. The Blues got a big rebound victory yesterday in Pittsburgh, winning 5-1 as Jordan Binnington made a career-high 40 saves.

The Sabres have only two goals in their last four games, with three straight shutout losses. Their 4-2 loss against Carolina yesterday has put them 15 points out of a wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. The Blues win yesterday put them two points ahead of Dallas, retaining third place in the Central Division, and look to win the three-game road trip, winning against Pittsburgh and losing to Ottawa.

REUNION

Ryan O’Reilly will return to Buffalo for the first time since being traded to the Blues in the offseason. O’Reilly was traded for Vladimir Sobotka, Patrik Berglund, Tage Thompson, a 2019 first-round pick and a 2021 second-round pick. Thompson and Sobotka have put up 12 points each in Buffalo, while Patrik Berglund left the NHL back in mid-December. Carter Hutton, after leaving St. Louis in 2018, signed to Buffalo as a free agent in the postseason and is 16-20-5 through 41 games played.

Ryan O’Reilly, after three seasons with the Sabres, was unsure about the kind of reaction his return would generate: “I don’t know what to really expect,” O’Reilly told Darren Pang. “I’ve been traded before, it helps a lot knowing it’s going to be weird to be in that building but at the end of the day, it’s two points that we need and just focus on my game that way.”

DEPTH, DEFENSE, AND DAVID

You’ve likely heard this before that the Blues have struggled with the injuries to their top line. In Pittsburgh, the Blues responded to the shutout in Ottawa with four unanswered goals, two of them coming from the bottom 6. Sundqvist scored against his former club to break the ice and Maroon got his second goal in 27 games.

The defense put up the other three goals in the game, with Jay Bouwmeester’s goal resulting in a goaltending change and Vince Dunn getting his first career multi-goal game. The goals put the Blues in first in the league for goals scored by defensemen, as well as setting a franchise record: 10+ goals by three or more defensemen (Pietrangelo, Parayko and Dunn).

David Perron assisted on Dunn’s goal and extended his point streak to 14 games after returning to the lineup for the first time since January 17th (the NHL does not recognize this streak). Perron had 15 minutes of ice time in his return on the top line with St. Louis.

YOUNG GUNS

While the season is coming to a close in Buffalo, the Sabres will have a lot of youth to look forward to in their rebuild. Five players on their active roster are all under 23, including superstar captain Jack Eichel and 2018 first overall pick Rasmus Dahlin, who has 37 points in his first NHL season. These five players have combined for 142 points, 72 of them coming from Eichel.

Linus Ullmark also shows promise as Buffalo’s backup goaltender in his NHL debut season, going 14-12-4 and posting a .906 save percentage. The Sabres also have two first round picks in this year’s upcoming draft, after receiving the Sharks’ first round pick for Evander Kane. The Sabres, who currently sit 8th-last in the NHL, now have a 6% chance of getting the first overall pick again in this year’s draft lottery.

The Blues have been looking to forwards like Robert Thomas and Zach Sanford to usher in depth scoring on their lower lines, while Vince Dunn has been a force on the blue line. The 22-year-old defenseman scored two goals in Pittsburgh to bring his point total to 11-19-30. Robert Thomas and Zach Sanford grabbed three helpers to bring their point total to a combined 14-28-42. Thomas has been a sparkplug on any line in his rookie season, even sharing some ice with the top line in Tarasenko’s absence.

Meanwhile, Jordan Binnington continues to impress, after yesterday’s win improved his record to 17-4-1, posting a league-best 1.77 GAA. Though O’Reilly’s trade took their first-round pick, the Blues management and scouting system has still shined to find solid youth players around the league.

The Blues and Sabres face off at 5pm ET today at Keybank Center. To see or hear the faceoff, head to:

STL: FSMW, 1120 KMOX, NHL.tv

BUF: MSGB, WGR 550, NHL.tv

PROJECTED LINEUPS:

ST. LOUIS

FORWARDS:

10 Schenn – 90 O’Reilly – 57 Perron

20 Steen – 70 Sundqvist – 17 Schwartz

7 Maroon – 21 Bozak – 18 Thomas

62 – MacEachern – 49 Barbashev – 12 Sanford

DEFENSE:

27 Pietrangelo – 29 Dunn

55 Parayko – 19 Bouwmeester

41 Bortuzzo – 42 Del Zotto

IN GOAL:

34 Allen

BUFFALO

FORWARDS:

53 Skinner – 9 Eichel – 23 Reinhart

21 Okposo – 22 Larsson – Girgensons

29 Pominville – 37 Mittelstadt – 72 Thompson

43 Sheary – 71 Rodrigues – 92 Nylander

DEFENSE:

4 Bogosian – 55 Ristolainen

62 Montour – 26 Dahlin

8 Nelson – 48 Hunwick

IN GOAL:

40 Hutton

For more local Blues stories, insights and more, visit bluesrants.com!

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Phillip Miller

Phillip Miller became a Blues fan in high school after discovering the game of hockey while living in southern Illinois. He has been writing for Blues Rants since early 2019 and still remains a student and lover of the game. Phillip currently resides in Fargo, North Dakota.

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