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Sabres vs. Coyotes preview: What a difference a year makes

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The Sabres and Coyotes meet tonight in a game that feels light years different from the last time these two teams played.

Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

Game #26

Buffalo Sabres (10-12-3) vs.
Arizona Coyotes (13-11-1)

Puck Drop: 7:00 pm EST | First Niagara Center | Buffalo, NY
TV: MSG, Bell, FS-A Plus | Radio: WGR 550
SB Nation Coyotes Blog: Five For Howling

Three Questions

1. Whose rookies will impress more?

Arizona is led offensively by first year players Max Domi and Anthony Duclair, who have 21 and 14 points respectively. The Sabres are led by Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart, who have 12 and 9 points. All four players are having impressive seasons in their own way, with Eichel scoring highlight reel goals and Domi being second in rookie scoring. The way the Calder candidates play will have a big impact on the outcome of tonight's game.

2. Can the Sabres improve their tanking (sorry) possession numbers?

In their last game, the Sabres were outshot 46-32 by the the Red Wings, and as this SI article points out, their possession stats have been in sharp decline over the last month. However, Arizona comes in to tonight's game allowing about 31 shots per game while only getting about 27 themselves, one of the biggest discrepancies in the league.

3. Who wins the battle of young #1 defensemen?

Rasmus Ristolainen has been piling up both stats and praise this season, and has scored 14 points in 16 games after assisting on three of Buffalo's four goals against Detroit. But the Coyotes have a young stud of their own in Olver Ekman-Larson. OEL has six goals among his 17 points, and has put up points in 10 of his last 13 games.

Projected BUF lines

Kane - O'Reilly - Reinhart
McGinn - Eichel - Gionta
Moulson - Girgensons - Larsson
Deslauriers - Legwand - Foligno

Gorges - Ristolainen
Colaiacovo - Bogosian
McCabe - Franson

Goal: Chad Johnson