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Preview: Critical points on the line as Sabres square-off with Flyers

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Buffalo and Philadelphia jockey for position in a tightly contested Eastern Conference race

Buffalo Sabres v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images

Game 36

Buffalo Sabres (16-12-7) vs. Philadelphia Flyers (18-11-5)

Puck Drop: 7:00 PM EST | Wells Fargo Center | Philadelphia, PA

TV: MSG

Radio: WGR 550

SB Nation Flyers Blog: Broad Street Hockey

Know Your Opponent

Philadelphia Flyers

Record: (18-11-5) | 41 PTS

Last 10: 6-4-0

Division Ranking: 5th in Metropolitan Division

Conference Ranking: 6th in Eastern Conference

PP: 19th (17.8%)

PK: 8th (83.3%)

What to Watch

1. Critical Points on the Line

With just two points separating the Sabres and Flyers in the Eastern Conference standings, a win tonight would help both teams keep pace in a tightly contested playoff race. While we’ve barely approached the mid-way point of the season, these two evenly-matched foes would like to take points away from each other.

At the moment, the Sabres still hold the second place slot in the Atlantic Division, but with just three points separating them from the sixth place team in the division, every win matters, even in December.

2. Hutton Back In Net

Following back-to-back .950 save-percentage performances to close out the month of October, it’s been rough sailing for the veteran netminder. Only once in his last six starts has he posted over a .875. The Flyers are a tough opponent, especially at Wells Fargo Center, where they hold an 11-2-4 record this season (good for 26 of their 41 points so far).

Though Hutton has become the team’s number two goaltender behind Linus Ullmark, he needs to be reliable in spot duty. With the Los Angeles Kings traveling to Buffalo for a matinee game on Saturday, it’s a little surprising to see Hutton get the nod here. We’ll see if he can turn the tides.

3. Dahlin and the Sabres Power-Play Unit

Ever since Rasmus Dahlin returned to the ice following a concussion that caused him to miss eight games, the Sabres’ power-play unit has been revitalized to an extent. For a group that finished the month of November allowing more goals-against than goals-for with the man-advantage, going 3-for-6 since Dahlin’s return to the top unit is a welcome change.

If the Sabres hope to remain competitive in a parity-filled Eastern Conference, they need the power-play to be an area of strength. Hopefully Dahlin’s inclusion on the back-end can continue to be a catalyst for a unit that currently ranks 15th in the NHL.

Projected Lineups

Buffalo Sabres

Forwards

Victor Olofsson - Jack Eichel - Sam Reinhart

Jimmy Vesey - Marcus Johansson - Rasmus Asplund

Jeff Skinner - Evan Rodrigues - Conor Sheary

Zemgus Girgensons - Johan Larsson - Kyle Okposo

Defense

Jake McCabe - Rasmus Ristolainen

Brandon Montour - Colin Miller

Marco Scandella - Rasmus Dahlin

Zach Bogosian - Henri Jokiharju (Scratched pair will be known closer to game time)

Starting Goaltender: Carter Hutton (confirmed)

Philadelphia Flyers

Forwards

Claude Giroux - Sean Couturier - Travis Konecny

James van Riemsdyk - Kevin Hayes - Nicolas Aube-Kubel

David Kase - Morgan Frost - Jakub Voracek

Andy Andreoff - Mikhail Vorobyev - Tyler Pitlick

Defense

Ivan Provorov - Matt Niskanen

Travis Sanheim - Justin Braun

Robert Hagg - Shayne Gostisbehere

Starting Goaltender: Carter Hart (confirmed)