NHL Betting Preview: Flyers battle Buffalo Sabres

By: Barry Daniels | Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Philadelphia Flyers will begin their attempt at a second consecutive run to the Stanley Cup finals when they host the red-hot Buffalo Sabres in Thursday’s Game 1 of this best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarterfinal series. The puck drops from Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center at 4:35 p.m. (PT).

The major difference between Philadelphia’s excursion to last season’s Cup Finals and this year’s trip is seeding. The Flyers will be starting from the No. 2 position instead of last year's seventh seed.

Most sports books monitored by Don Best Sports' Real-Time Odds have opened the Flyers as 155 favorites to capture the series, with the Sabres at plus 135. That is the closest spread of any Eastern Conference series.

Philadelphia also opened as a 160 home favorite for Thursday’s Game 1, with the total set at 5 ½ ‘under’ (minus 130). The Flyers will be after their first championship since winning the last of consecutive Stanley Cup championships in 1975.

Despite being seeded seventh last year, the Flyers made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals before being eliminated by Chicago in six games.

The Flyers limped to the finish line this season by dropping five of their last six games, allowing 21 goals in the process. They yielded three goals or more in each of their last five games.

Things were quite the opposite in Buffalo, where the Sabres captured eight of their last 10 encounters. Buffalo notched three shutouts during that 10-game span and allowed two goals or less on three other occasions.

These Eastern Conference foes split four meetings this season, with the Flyers winning the first two matchups 6-3 and 5-2. The Sabres took the two most recent hook-ups, 5-3 and 4-3 in overtime. All four endeavors skipped ‘over’ the NHL odds.

The history

The Flyers will face the Sabres in a playoff series for the ninth time, which is the second most of any opponent the Flyers have faced in the playoffs.

The Flyers are 5-3 against Buffalo in the playoffs. Their last meeting was in 2006 when Buffalo won in six games during the first round. The Sabres have won three of the last four series between the clubs dating back to 1998. Prior to that, the Flyers won four in a row between 1975 and 1997.

The injuries

Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger is listed as “doubtful” on the Don Best Sports injury report. Pronger, a former NHL MVP, has been sidelined since having hand surgery in March. He also missed time with a foot injury and was limited to just 50 games this season.

The five-time All-Star had four goals and 21 assists for 25 points. He's an integral part of the team's defense and plays a key role on special teams.

Flyers left wing Jody Shelley is listed as “questionable” with an eye injury.

The Sabres practiced for about an hour on Tuesday, including injured defenseman Andrej Sekera. The four-year veteran missed the last two games of the regular season because of an upper-body injury. But coach Lindy Ruff said that Sekera was able to successfully get through the workout.

Sekera, who is listed as “questionable,” finished with a career-high 29 points in 76 games this season.

Offense

Philadelphia (3rd at 3.1 GPG – Buffalo (9th at 2.9 GPG)

Defense

Philadelphia (11th at 2.6 GA – Buffalo (16th at 2.8 GA).

Special teams

Philadelphia is 19th on power play at 16.6 percent and 15th on penalty kill at 82.8 percent). Buffalo is ninth on power play and 13th on penalty kill at 83.1 percent.

Contrasting 13s

The Flyers have scored 13 shorthanded goals this season, which is the second-best mark in the league. The Sabres have allowed 13 shorthanded goals this season, which is the third-worst mark in the NHL.

Philadelphia will host Game 2 of this best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarterfinal series on Saturday at 2 p.m. (PT).

 
 
 
 
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