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Preview: St. Patrick’s Day Matinee

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The Chicago Blackhawks visit the Sabres in a St. Patty’s day matinee

NHL: Buffalo Sabres at Chicago Blackhawks Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Game #71

Buffalo Sabres (22-36-12) vs. Chicago Blackhawks (30-33-8)

Puck drop: 1:00 p.m. EST | KeyBank Center | Buffalo, NY

Season Series: 1-0 Blackhawks

12/8: Blackhawks 3, Sabres 2 (OT) (recap)

TV: MSG

Radio: WGR 550

SB Nation Blackhawks blog: Second City Hockey

What to Watch

1. The Return?

There’s a chance that Jack Eichel could make his return today for the Buffalo Sabres. He’s missed 15 games with a high ankle sprain he suffered on February 10. He was officially listed as a game-time decision for today.

2. Another 50/50 Crowd

The KeyBank Center will likely be another 50/50 crowd this afternoon. The Blackhawks fans always show well in Buffalo. Especially considering they feature Buffalo native Patrick Kane.

3. Ocho-Cinco

Chad Johnson will get his turn between the pipes today. Johnson has won three of his last four starts and was playing very well until he got the hook in his last game against the Calgary Flames. With Linus Ullmark up with the Sabres, it feels like we may see a rotation of the three for the rest of the season unless one of the goaltenders gets hot.

Know Your Opponent

1. Patrick Kane

Outside of Eichel returning, Kane will be the main attraction. The 29-year-old has 25 goals and 67 points in 71 games this season. Kane has eight goals and 15 points in 14 career games against his hometown team.

2. Alex DeBrincat

The Blackhawks feature a rookie who is having a great first season in the NHL. He has 22 goals and 42 points in 71 games this season. He’d be in the Calder Trophy discussion if it wasn’t for the big season from Brock Boeser of the Vancouver Canucks.

3. No Postseason

It’s odd to say, but the Blackhawks will not be in the playoffs this season. They’ve dealt with injuries to a key player like goaltender Corey Crawford and haven’t been able to overcome the loss of Marian Hossa. Chicago is actually closer to last place in the league (12 points) than a playoff spot (16 points) entering play today.

Projected Lineup (unconfirmed)

20 Scott Wilson - 90 Ryan O’Reilly - 23 Sam Reinhart

28 Zemgus Girgensons - 15 Jack Eichel - 29 Jason Pominville

67 Benoit Pouliot - 71 Evan Rodrigues - 13 Nick Baptiste

17 Jordan Nolan - 22 Johan Larsson - 95 Justin Bailey

6 Marco Scandella - 55 Rasmus Ristolainen

45 Brendan Guhle - 8 Casey Nelson

82 Nathan Beaulieu - 93 Victor Antipin

Starting Goaltender: 31 Chad Johnson