Buffalo, N.Y. (WGR 550) – The Buffalo Sabres will be facing a surprising Nashville Predators team on Thursday night that leads the Central Division by three points over the Colorado Avalanche and St. Louis Blues.
The Preds are sixth in the NHL with a points percentage of .676.
Buffalo has four goalies hurt, so Aaron Dell will get the start in net. He’s 0-5-0 this season with a 4.52 goals-against average and an .872 save percentage. Dell’s last start was in Florida when Buffalo got out to a 4-1 lead, only to lose 7-4 to the Panthers.
Alex Tuch and Kyle Okposo return after missing two games due to COVID-19. Robert Hagg is also back after missing seven games due to a lower-body injury. He would’ve missed a lot more time, but five games were postponed while he was out.
Buffalo has lost six-straight games and won’t have leading scorer Tage Thompson, who remains in the NHL's COVID-19 protocols.
The NHL will announce teams for the 2022 NHL All-Star Game on Thursday, which takes place next month in Vegas. It all gets started at 6 p.m. EST on ESPN with Rasmus Dahlin expected to be Buffalo’s participant.
I think Thompson has far-and-away been Buffalo’s best player this season, but head coach Don Granato has been pushing Dahlin constantly the past few weeks, often unsolicited in an attempt to quiet the heavy criticism of the 21-year-old defenseman.
Dahlin and his partner Henri Jokiharju have been playing better lately as they've gotten more ice-time.
This is the first time these two teams have met in almost two years.
The Predators feature goalie Juuse Saros, who leads the league with 30 games played this season and 20 wins. His .928 save percentage is sixth in the NHL, while his 2.27 goals-against average is ninth. Saros has played in nine of Nashville’s last 10 games.
Defenseman Roman Josi in 14th in NHL scoring with 12 goals and 25 assists for 37 points in 35 games. Josi has seven points in his last three games.
Mikael Granlund is seventh in league assists with 28.
Filip Forsberg is 11th in the league with 18 goals this season.
Nashville has won five-straight games, and 12 of their last 14. Only once did the Preds fail to pick up points in that stretch, going 12-1-1.
Tanner Jeannot has been hot for Nashville lately. He has nine points in his last 10 games.
During the 2018-19 season, Matt Duchene scored 31 goals for the Ottawa Senators and Columbus Blue Jackets. After signing with Nashville in free agency, he scored just 13 goals in 66 games, as well as six goals in 34 games.
Duchene is back to putting the puck in the net this season with 16 goals in 33 games.
Join Brian Koziol at 7 p.m. EST for pregame coverage on WGR when he’ll be joined by Granato, Dahlin and Dell.