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Buffalo@ N.Y. ISLANDERS
Buffalo +111 over N.Y. ISLANDERS

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Posted at 10:55 AM EST

7:00 PM EST. OT included. The Islanders opened their year with a 5-0 loss in Columbus last night and looked rather lifeless in doing so. While we expect a much better performance tonight, it’s not likely going to matter. The Islanders have some nice pieces in place, most notably, John Tavares, Josh Bailey, Anders Lee and Nick Leddy. Isles fans also caught a glimpse of stud prospect Joshua Ho-Sang and they did get hot for a stretch last year before missing the playoffs by a single point but there are issues to be sure. Jordan Eberle was acquired in a trade with the Oilers but the biggest move of the off-season was sending away Travis Hamonic. That hurts and it also hurts that the Isles do not have stable goaltending. Tomas Greiss was in net last night and Joroslav Halak will be in goal tonight. Weak goaltending loses more games than anything else and we wouldn’t trust Halak for a second. There are also the two elephants in the room. John Tavares has yet to sign on the dotted line in what could be a very lucrative contract extension. The team captain has openly stated he wants to stay with the Islanders but leaving a sour taste in his mouth doesn’t do anybody any good. The extension has not happened yet. It matters and it negatively affects everyone. The other elephant in the room is the arena situation. The Barclays Center experiment is a huge failure. Attendance is low, ice conditions are bad and the atmosphere is morgue-like. As the chalk, at least for now, we’ll pass on the Islanders. 

There are also the two elephants in the room. John Tavares has yet to sign on the dotted line in what could be a very lucrative contract extension. The team captain has openly stated he wants to stay with the Islanders but leaving a sour taste in his mouth doesn’t do anybody any good. The extension has not happened yet. It matters and it negatively affects everyone. The other elephant in the room is the arena situation. The Barclays Center experiment is a huge failure. Attendance is low, ice conditions are bad and the atmosphere is morgue-like. As the chalk, at least for now, we’ll pass on the Islanders. 

We were high on the Sabres most of last year and are even higher on them this year. The Sabres might be the league’s most undervalued squad that is truly on the verge of a breakout. In the 2017 offseason, the Sabres officially became Jack Eichel’s team. Amid reports that the 20-year-old phenom wouldn’t sign an extension as long as Dan Bylsma was the Sabres coach, owners Terry and Kim Pegula (smartly) hitched their wagon to Eichel, firing Bylsma and GM Tim Murray and replacing them with first-time head coach Phil Housley and Pittsburgh Penguins front-office alum Jason Botterill. Housley is a rookie as an NHL bench boss, but the ex-Sabre has played in 1,495 NHL games with previous head coaching gigs at the high school and international levels. Housley also spent the last four seasons running the defense as an assistant with the Nashville Predators. 

The young core of players Murray established—Sam Reinhart, Zemgus Girgensons, and Rasmus Ristolainen—are heading into their third, fourth, and fifth years in the league, respectively, and they should start playing with more intelligence and consistency. Kyle Okposo, Evander Kane, and standout center Ryan O’Reilly are still on the roster. Marco Scandella, a solid defenseman and former Buffalo legend Jason Pominville joined the team in a trade when Botterill shipped longtime Sabres Marcus Foligno and Tyler Ennis off to Minnesota. And then there’s Eichel, who’s entering his third season after a second that was unfortunately truncated by a high ankle sprain. (He returned after missing the first two months of the season and managed to lead the team in scoring anyway.) This guy is good—a player with sick hands and sneaky speed whose skills transcend the eye test. Buffalo outplayed, outshot and outworked the Habs in its 3-2 opening night OT loss. Carey Price was the difference. Jaroslav Halak won’t be the difference here.   

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Our Pick

Buffalo +111 (Risking 2 units - To Win: 2.22)

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Dallas +109 over N.Y. ISLANDERS
VANCOUVER +120 over Nashville
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