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Preview: Visiting Smashville

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The Sabres make their annual visit to Nashville tonight to face the Predators

NHL: Nashville Predators at Buffalo Sabres Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Game #78

Buffalo Sabres (24-41-12) vs. Nashville Predators (50-16-11)

Puck drop: 8:00 p.m. EST | Bridgestone Arena | Nashville, TN

Season Series: 1-0 Predators

3/19: Predators 4, Sabres 0 (recap)

TV: MSG

Radio: WGR 550

SB Nation Predators blog: On The Forecheck

What to Watch

1. Mittelstadt’s Next Test

Casey Mittelstadt played pretty well in his debut against the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday. Tonight the competition will take a step up to the next level, perhaps even two levels. He’ll line up against guys down the middle like Ryan Johansen, Nick Bonino, Mike Fisher and Kyle Turris. It’ll good to see where he matches up against some of the best in the NHL.

2. The path to 30?

When Jack Eichel went down with a high-ankle sprain back in February there wasn’t much thought that the 21-year-old would hit 25 goals this season, let alone 30. Eichel scored his 25th goal of the season on Thursday. He needs five more to hit that 30 goal mark and has five games to do it.

3. Chad Johnson

Johnson will start in goal tonight with the injuries to Robin Lehner and Linus Ullmark. He’ll be backed up by Adam Wilcox who was called up from the Rochester Amerks yesterday.

Know Your Opponent

1. Tolvanen Debut

Predators rookie Eeli Tolvanen is expected to make his NHL debut tonight. He was the 30th overall pick in the draft last June. The 18-year-old has had a great season shining in the KHL, World Juniors and Olympics. He’ll be a big scoring boost for the Predators heading into the playoffs.

2. Clinching Scenario

The Predators have the opportunity to clinch the Central Division tonight with a win over the Sabres and the Winnipeg Jets lose to the Toronto Maple Leafs in regulation. Nashville is also looking good to win the Presidents Trophy. They have a three-point lead on Tampa Bay for the most points in the league.

Projected Lineup

28 Zemgus Girgensons - 15 Jack Eichel - 29 Jason Pominville

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

71 Evan Rodrigues - 37 Casey Mittelstadt - 21 Kyle Okposo

67 Benoit Pouliot - 22 Johan Larsson - 13 Nick Baptiste

6 Marco Scandella - 55 Rasmus Ristolainen

45 Brendan Guhle - 8 Casey Nelson

41 Justin Falk - 93 Victor Antipin

Starting Goaltender: 31 Chad Johnson