Buffalo Sabres (7-8-4) vs Detroit Red Wings (8-10-1)
Puck drop: 7:00 p.m. EST | KeyBank Center | Buffalo, NY
TV: MSG-B, FS-D+ | Radio: WGR 550
SB Nation’s Red Wings Blog: Winging it in Motown
1. How will Ryan O’Reilly look in his return from injury?
At long last, the Sabres will have at least one of their two best players back on the ice as Ryan O’Reilly returns tonight to center the top line. ROR confirmed today that he’s "back to 100 percent", which is good news for a Sabres team still desperate to create offense.
The Red Wings are strong up the middle, with Henrik Zetterberg, Frans Nielsen, and Dylan Larkin anchoring their top three lines, so any help the Sabres can get up the middle is a welcome relief.
2. Speaking of offense, can the Sabres make it two games in a row with more than one goal?
After spending seemingly the entire month of November mired in a scoring slump, the Sabres put up four goals in their last game against Calgary. Three of those goals came on the power play, but sometimes just seeing the puck get into the net can be enough to spark something.
O’Reilly agreed, noting that there’s a different feel in the locker room when things are clicking. Said the Sabres should-be captain, "Coming into the locker room, you can see the guys looking confident. It's nice to score goals and [have] guys getting on the board. To come in and be a part of that, it's definitely some nice energy to be around."
They’ll be facing Jimmy Howard, who has owned the Sabres throughout his career to the tune of 7-0-1 and a .937 save percentage.
3. Can the Sabres control their old friend, Thomas Vanek?
Vanek had eight points in his first seven games before suffering a hip injury and missing 11 games. He’ll be on a line with Dylan Larkin and Gustav Nyquist, two guys who can create space for Atlas to do what he does best. The Red Wings are struggling to score much like the Sabres have been, and are looking to this new line combination to create some offense tonight.
Projected BUF Lines
26 Matt Moulson - 90 Ryan O’Reilly - 21 Kyle Okposo
28 Zemgus Girgensons - 23 Sam Reinhart - 9 Evander Kane
82 Marcus Foligno - 23 Johan Larsson - 12 Brian Gionta
48 William Carrier - 19 Cal O’Reilly - 27 Derek Grant
4 Josh Gorges - 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
29 Jake McCabe - 6 Cody Franson
41 Justin Falk - 38 Taylor Fedun
Goal: 40 Robin Lehner