It seems to be our favorite time of year in Sabreland as the NHL announced that their annual draft lottery will take place on April 9. The hourlong event to determine the top three picks in the 2019 NHL Draft will take place in Toronto, Ontario with all 15 non-playoff teams, or the clubs who own the pick of a non-playoff team, will be in the drawing for a top-three draft pick.
Here are the odds for landing one of the top three picks in the draft this year (odds are recalculated after each draw):
31st place--18.5% 16.5 14.4
30th--13.5 13.0 12.4
29th--11.5 11.3 11.1
28th--9.5 9.6 9.7
27th--8.5 8.7 8.9
26th--7.5 7.8 8.0
25th--6.5 6.8 7.1
24th--6.0 6.3 6.7
23rd--5.0 5.3 5.7
22nd--3.5 3.8 4.1
21st--3.0 3.3 3.6
20th--2.5 2.7 3.0
19th--2.0 2.0 2.4
18th--1.5 1.7 1.5
17th--1.0 1.1 1.2
As is customary in Buffalo the last eight seasons, the Sabres will be in that group barring a miracle finish to the 2018-19 season. Presently they are 23rd overall in the league with 69 points. Buffalo has been in the lottery the last seven seasons and received the second-overall pick in 2014 and 2015 after inducing a scorched-earth rebuild. The two post-tank seasons landed two consecutive eighth-overall picks before they hit rock-bottom again. Buffalo won the lottery in 2018 after finishing in last place that season and once again they'll be in the running for a top-three pick.
In what has become an annual tradition, we trek over to nhlnumbers.com draft simulator for a spin of the wheel to see where the Sabres would land in this game of chance. And the winners are:
Buffalo has 13 games left in the season with a game tonight against the Pittsburgh Penguins. While the Sabres sit in the bottom third of the league, the Pens are in a battle to maintain their third place spot in the horse race that is the Metropolitan Division. Pittsburgh has 85 point which is four points behind the division-leading NY Islanders and only two points behind second-place Washington. Hot on their trail, however, are the Carolina Hurricanes (83 points) and Columbus Blue Jackets (81.)
This is the third and final meeting between the Sabres and the Penguins this season with Buffalo winning the prior two games in overtime. The first one was in November in Pittsburgh with the Sabres in the midst of their 10-game winning streak. The Pens skated to a 4-1 lead before Buffalo scored three unanswered goals to tie it. Jack Eichel provided the overtime-winner.
Their last meeting was a back-and-forth affair in Buffalo at the beginning of this month. Pittsburgh would take the lead on second period goals by Patric Hornqvist and Sidney Crosby, but newly acquired defenseman Brandon Montour would tie the score in the third period. Former Pen Conor Sheary scored the game-winner in overtime.
Buffalo will be without the services of Eichel, their captain, as he's serving the second of a two-game suspension for an illegal hit to the head. They've also been without scoring as of late. The Sabres have been shutout in two consecutive games and haven't scored since the 7:20 mark of the third period in Chicago last Thursday for a goal-less drought of 1:36:40. And as we look to the projected lineup without Eichel, it might be even tougher to break that drought:
Veteran defenseman Zach Bogosian could miss tonight's game. He wasn't seen in the third period of Buffalo's 2-0 loss to Dallas on Tuesday and wasn't at practice yesterday. Sabres head coach Phil Housley said Bogosian has an injury and that he's day-to-day. Here's the parings from practice yesterday:
Whomever is in goal tonight for Buffalo will have their hands full. Either Carter Hutton or Linus Ullmark will be facing a Penguins team that's in playoff-mode already. If the Sabres have any hope of winning, they may need a Herculean performance for either of those two in net.
Buffalo enters the game on a five-game losing streak (0-4-1) and haven't won since beating Pittsburgh on March 1.