The Buffalo Sabres host Atlantic Division rival the Ottawa Senators tonight at Key Bank Center. The Sabres have won two of the previous three meetings, all of which were one-goal decisions. Tonight’s game is as close to a must-win as it gets for the Sabres. They’re eight points out of the playoffs in the wild-card and division rankings entering play tonight.
The Senators are ten points up on the Sabres holding down the second spot in the Atlantic Division. They can pull within five points of the first-place Montreal Canadiens with a win and a Habs loss against the Washington Capitals this afternoon. The Senators are coming into Buffalo with a 6-2-2 record in their last ten games and expect to continue a strong season that wasn’t expected by some.
Sabres come in losers of three straight and are starting to see any hope of the playoffs fade quickly. Including tonight, three of the next four games are at home. They also have road games against the Toronto Maple Leafs and Senators over the next two weeks. All games are extremely important for the club. The inability to earn the majority of the points available over the next two weeks could end any playoff aspirations the team is still holding onto.
Ottawa Senators at Buffalo Sabres
Key Bank Center – 7:00 p.m. EST
Broadcast channels – MSG-B, TVAS & SNO
2016-17 Season Series: Nov. 5 – Sabres 2, Senators 1 | Nov. 9 – Senators 2, Sabres 1 (SO) | Nov. 29 – Sabres 5, Senators 4
Ottawa Senators – 27-16-6 – 60 Points
Road Record: 13-9-0
Hot Players: Erik Karlsson, Mike Hoffman and Mark Stone
Key Injuries: Clarke MacArthur
Ryan Dzingel – Kyle Turris – Bobby Ryan
Mike Hoffman – Jean-Gabriel Pageau – Tom Pyatt
Zack Smith -Derrick Brassard – Mark Stone
Chris Kelly – Curtis Lazar – Tommy Wingels
Marc Methot – Erik Karlsson
Dion Phaneuf – Cody Ceci
Mark Borowiecki – Chris Wideman
* Lines subject to change
Buffalo Sabres – 20-20-10 – 50 Points
Home Record: 11-8-4
Hot Players: Evander Kane and Brian Gionta
Key Injuries: Zach Bogosian and Johan Larsson
Marcus Foligno – Jack Eichel – Sam Reinhart
Kyle Okposo – Ryan O’Reilly – Matt Moulson
Evander Kane – Zemgus Girgensons – Brian Gionta
Tyler Ennis – Nic Deslauriers – Justin Bailey
Rasmus Ristolainen – Jake McCabe
Dmitry Kulikov – Cody Franson
Justin Falk – Josh Gorges
** Lines subject to change.
1) Josh Gorges and Jake McCabe will return to the Sabres lineup tonight to help solidify the defense group. McCabe has missed about a week with a shoulder injury, while Gorges has been out about a month with a middle body injury. Head coach Dan Bylsma announced that Will Carrier will be out for a bit of time and Justin Baily has been recalled to take his spot in the lineup.
— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) February 4, 2017
2) Robin Lehner and Mike Condon will be between the pipes tonight. Lehner has not lost in regulation and has a .951 save percentage against his former club. Condon has filled in very well for Craig Anderson who has been away from the team with his wife who is undergoing cancer treatment. However, Condon has struggled in his last three starts winning only once with a .875 save percentage.
3) Erik Karlsson continues to be one of, the if not the best, defenseman in the game. He has 44 points in 49 games and has five in his last two. The 26-year-old has to be accounted for at all times. He has the potential to take over the game, as he did Thursday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning with three assists
4) Last time these two teams met was Jack Eichel’s season debut. He had two points in the first ten minutes of the game including his first goal of the season. The Sabres skated to a 5-4 win that night in Ottawa.
The previous two games have been low scoring 2-1 matchups with each team picking up a victory in those games. The team could use another breakout game from Eichel to pace the offense in such an important game.
5) Justin Bailey has another opportunity to make a statement as he fills in for the injured Carrier. After starting the season off slow, Bailey has scored 11 goals in his last 12 games for the Sabres’ AHL affiliate Rochester Americans. The former second-round pick has one goal this season for the Sabres and his speed will be a welcome addition to the lineup.