Buffalo Sabres (8-9-1) at
St. Louis Blues (12-6-1)
The Sabres' top six gets a big boost tonight in St. Louis, as Evander Kane returns to the lineup after missing the last three weeks. Kane's return comes at an opportune time. Buffalo is in the midst of arguably its toughest stretch of the season—a two-week grind of Western Conference opponents. Both he and Zach Bogosian, who made his season debut on Tuesday, fill big holes in the Sabres' lineup. With both of them back, we will start to see what this team is capable of at full strength.
One piece who will be missing tonight is Zemgus Girgensons, who is sitting out his second straight game with an upper body injury that prevented him from making the trip. Mark Pysyk also won't play due to a lower body injury.
Linus Ullmark gets the nod in goal for the second game in a row. The rookie netminder turned away 26 of 28 shots against the Stars on Tuesday and has allowed two goals or fewer in each of his last three starts.
1. What impact will Evander Kane have in his return?
After missing the last 10 games with an MCL injury, Kane returns tonight and reclaims his spot on Jack Eichel's left wing. With the Sabres in the midst of a tough stretch of Central Division foes, getting their top winger back couldn't have come at a better time. Kane can provide the offensive spark they need after scoring just twice in their last two games. He and Eichel will be playing with Sam Reinhart tonight. That trio boasts an abundance of offensive talent and will hopefully help snap the Sabres out of their recent offensive funk.
Speaking of which...
2. Can the Sabres avoid another slow start?
Buffalo has been slow out of the gate in each of its past two games and it has proven costly. Both San Jose and Dallas scored within the first two minutes of the game, which was about all they needed to do considering it took the Sabres (read: Ryan O'Reilly) until the third period in both games to respond. Solid outings from both Chad Johnson and Linus Ullmark kept Buffalo in those games, but they can only do so much against some of the best the NHL has to offer.
The Sabres' next four games, and five of their next six, are against teams among the league's top six. To combat that, head coach Dan Bylsma has employed a more defensive-minded strategy. With one of its best offensive weapons back tonight, hopefully we'll see Buffalo come out faster and open things up to try to push play a bit more.
Projected BUF lines