Buffalo Sabres (24-29-7) at
Anaheim Ducks (31-19-8)
1. Will the top line show improvement after getting some time together?
Ryan O'Reilly's injury came as something of a surprise when it was announced before the Penguins game, and we weren't sure who was going to replace him on the Sabres #1 line until warm ups. Now that Reinhart, Kane, and Bailey have a game and some practices under their belt, will they be able to put together a better performance than they did against Pittsburgh, or will we simply be waiting for Eichel and McGinn to get on the ice again?
2. What will Colaiacovo look like tonight?
Thanks to an injury to Cody Franson and trading Mike Weber, the Sabres have just six defensemen ready to go, which means Carlo Colaiacovo gets to play tonight, likely alongside Mark Pysyk. The only issue is that Colaiacovo has played in just two games since December 7. Will we see some positional rust? Will Vowelsy be out of game shape? The Sabres can't afford to have anyone off their A-game against the red-hot Ducks.
3. Is there any way Buffalo can keep this game close, or dare we dream, win?
Speaking of the red-hot Ducks, they are an NHL-best 9-1-1 since the All Star Break, and have won their last five games in a row to climb into fifth in the Western Conference. They are in the top 10 of the league in each of the following categories: power play, penalty kill, shots for and shots against, goals against, faceoff percentage, and Corsi (or SAT, if you want to be official). Out of all of those, the only category in which the Sabres are in the top 10 is power play percentage, where Buffalo is ranked 10th. This is an uphill battle on the road against a team with tons of momentum, and the Sabres will have their work cut out for them if they want to beat the league's hottest team.
Projected BUF lines
Colaiacovo - Pysyk