Buffalo Sabres (11-14-3) at
Calgary Flames (11-14-2)
1. What will the score be at the end of the first period?
Calgary has the worst goal differential in the league, and leads the NHL in goals against. However, they're not awful in the first period, scoring 20 goals and only giving up 24 - it's the second and third period where they get killed on the scoreboard. The first period has been the Sabres worst this season by far, so if Buffalo can keep thing close or even end the first with a lead (gasp!) they should be in good shape.
2. Can the Sabres take advantage of Calgary's terrible special teams?
The Flames are the worst team in the league on both the power play and penalty kill by a country mile. While Buffalo's penalty kill still needs work, their power play is ranked 7th in the NHL at 21.3%. If the Flames find themselves in the box too often, they should find themselves down on the scoreboard as well.
3. This is our first real look at the battle of the Sams. How will it play out?
Much was made over the past year about the Sabres taking Sam Reinhart #2 overall in 2014 instead of Sam Bennett. The flames (sorry) of that argument were fanned when Bennett was called up for Calgary's playoff run and looked pretty good, while Reinhart needed another year of seasoning and growing in juniors. So far this year, Bennett has five goals and 13 points, while Reinhart is second on the Sabres with eight goals and has 11 points. Both players are getting top-six minutes, so it should be fun to watch these two battle tonight and compete over the next few years.
Projected BUF lines
McCabe/Weber - Franson
Projected CGY lines
Smid - Engelland