NHL Face-Off Wednesday: Philadelphia Flyers at Buffalo Sabres

The hot-shooting Philadelphia Flyers (15-7-3) hit the road looking for their fifth win in six games as they head into Buffalo to take on the Sabres (14-11-1) in a great NHL Hockey match-up for midweek online sportsbook betting. With the Sabres not playing their best hockey at home, mustering just a 6-8-1 record thus far, and posting a pedestrian 4-5-1 record in their last 10 games, this match-up will be a difficult one for Buffalo, even with their star goalie Ryan Miller back in the line-up after missing time with a concussion. The problems for Buffalo only get compounded with a visit from the top road team in the NHL, with the top scoring offense in the game (3.5 goals per outing), as the star-studded Flyers look to close out a 4-game road trip with their third straight victory tonight.

The Flyers have been very comfortable on the road this year, posting a league-best record of 9-3-1, and against the Buffalo Sabres they’ve been even better, generating an 8-1-2 record against the home-ice Sabres in the last 11 games played there. Benefitting from the league’s highest scoring offense, led by Claude Giroux (32 points) and backed by a fleet of talented scorers like Scott Hartnell, veteran Jaromir Jagr and Danny Briere, this year’s Flyers squad is stacked about as deep as any team in the league. Despite the slightly less productive play of free agent pickup Ilya Bryzgalov in goal this year (10-5-2, 2.83 GAA, .900 Sv. %), the pure scoring machine of Philadelphia has been able to pull them through close games, and could get a bigger boost once Bryzgalov starts playing comfortable and in control again like he should. In a big match-up between two of the top netminders in NHL hockey tonight, this could be a great time to see if a spark from Bryzgalov helps to continue the strong play of the Flyers, or if a shutdown performance from Ryan Miller can help to get the Sabres back on track both at home and overall.

While Buffalo has certainly not played their best hockey at home, or against Philadelphia for that matter, entering the first game of a 5-game homestand with a win tonight would do wonders for the confidence of a Sabres team that looked primed at the beginning of the year to be a serious playoff contender. No doubt a huge disadvantage for the Sabres has been the absence of Ryan Miller in net, who made his return to the line-up on Saturday after missing 9 games with a concussion. Without Miller apart of the lineup, the Sabres went 3-5-1, as back-up goalie Jhonas Enroth fell back to Earth, going 1-3-1 in the past week as the Sabres’ offense struggled to generate any production in front of him. In his first start back after missing more than 3 weeks, Miller and the Sabres defeated the Nashville Predators 3-2 on the road, with 32 saves in a quality outing. That could bode well to help energize Buffalo ahead of tonight’s pivotal match-up, especially against Flyers’ goalie Bryzgalov, who has been allowing plenty of opponent’s goals through the wickets in the past week. Aside from Miller though, Buffalo simply has to find a way to create scoring pressure, as in this match-up they are averaging almost a goal less per game. That starts with creating some power play chances against the Flyers’ 13th-ranked penalty kill, getting top scorers Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville producing again (Vanek has had only two points, no goals in 5 games, Pominville 3 points, 1 goal in the same period), and also continuing their stout defensive play on their own penalty kill (5th at 86.6 percent), and keeping the Flyers top scorers contained.

Philadelphia certainly has the advantage heading into tonight’s match-up, especially with the historical trends on the road in general, and at Buffalo over the past few years, but in a big game that both teams need to win as they each sit 3rd in their divisions, a lot of history may go out the window in tonight’s game. For the Flyers, getting to Ryan Miller early is key to picking up a win in this road contest; Miller has been less-than-stellar against Philly lately, going 2-6-1 with a 3.15 goals against average in his last 9 home starts. It’s been the Flyers 6th-ranked power play that has helped pull Philly through close games lately, with the Flyers having won just two games in their last seven victories by more than one goal, but that power play will get a challenge against the shutdown Sabres in their own end. Also, if Ilya Bryzgalov can’t keep Buffalo under 3 goals tonight on home ice, Buffalo’s defense, and the returning presence of Ryan Miller could help secure a victory for the Sabres and help push them back into their winning ways at home over the course of the next 5 games played there.

Betting Lines for Philadelphia vs. Buffalo

At home, Buffalo is a slight underdog for this match-up at +105 odds levied at TopBet.com Sportsbook. With the way the two teams have played recently however (especially considering Philly’s recent run of success at Buffalo), this could be a great game to take Philadelphia as the low-level favorite at -125 odds on the money line, especially if Ryan Miller can’t settle down against a Flyers team that has had the better of him more often than not over the past few years. Expecting a close-fought game though, the 1.5 goals on the spread sees Philadelphia needing to cover 1.5 goals (+240 odds), and Buffalo to stay with 1.5 goals at -280 odds, making either wager tough to chase, unless you expect Philadelphia to completely dominate the game without getting scored upon. Rather than to try and prophesize what will happen against the spread, what does look good here is the over/under at 5.5 total goals. I envision this game being a race to 4 goals especially with the league-leading Flyers scoring offense in play, and also the rough history of Miller against Philly, along with Bryzgalov’s less-than-stellar goalie play even in Flyers wins.

Our Pick to Win:

History is tough to go against in the NHL, but with the Buffalo Sabres looking ready to dig themselves out of a funk at home with their starting goalie in net for a retribution game against Philadelphia, I like Buffalo as the underdog in this match-up this evening, as they find ways to hold the Flyers scorers in check just enough to eek out a win. I also like the probability of this game going to OT, or perhaps even a shootout to decide the game, with Miller being the better goalie in those situations on home ice. Though Philly has the advantage with the better scoring attack, which should get them to 3 goals in this game, I’m siding with Buffalo to find ways to produce tonight to get them to the same 3 goal mark, beating the 5.5 total goals set for the over/under at TopBet.com. At the end of the night, Buffalo emerges with a big home win, beating the Flyers 4-3 either in regulation or in a shootout.

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