Buffalo Sabres (27-31-9) at
New York Rangers (38-22-6)
1. Can the Sabres please avoid a start like yesterday?
Against Toronto on Monday, for the second time in their last four games, the Sabres allowed a goal in the first 30 seconds of the game. They followed that up with 40 minutes of lifeless, sloppy hockey that had fans wondering which team was doing the tanking. The Sabres are playing back-to-back tonight (while the Rangers are not) so a strong start will be important, since the legs will be fading at the end of the game.
The Rangers are wracked with injuries at the moment - Henrik Lundqvist, Rick Nash, Marc Staal, and Dylan McIlrath will all miss tonight's game - and their backup goalie situation has not been strong this year. If the Sabres can come out strong and score the first goal against a depleted New York lineup, they'll have a chance to take down one of the best in the East.
2. Can the Sabres win on special teams?
If there's one place where the Sabres are demonstrably better than the Rangers, it's on the power play and penalty kill. The Ragners have a below average power play, 19th in the league, and their PK is sputtering along at just 77%, the fourth-worst mark in the NHL. The Sabres nicely sit 11th in both categories, and should look to take as much of an advantage as they can against an opponent that is stronger in almost every aspect of the game.
3. Will Jack keep his point streak rolling?
After being held without a point for five games, Eichel now has three goals and four points in his last three games, earning over 21 minutes of ice time in all three. The 19-year old rookie now sits just four points behind Ryan O'Reilly's team-leading 49 points.
Projected BUF lines
Deslauriers - C. O'Reilly - Girgensons
Colaiacovo - Pysyk