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Sabres Look to Continue Hot Streak in Vegas

Buffalo has the opportunity to go 3-0 on their road trip with a win against the Eichel-less Golden Knights

NHL: Vegas Golden Knights at Buffalo Sabres Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Game 32

Buffalo Sabres (15-14-2) vs. Vegas Golden Knights (22-10-1)

Puck Drop: 10:00 PM EST | T-Mobile Arena | Las Vegas, NV

TV: MSG

Radio: WGR 550

SB Nation Knights Blog: Knights On Ice

Know Your Opponent

Vegas Golden Knights

Record: (22-10-1)

Last Game: 5-2 loss vs Islanders

Division Ranking: 1st in Pacific Division

PP: 25.8% (8th)

PK: 74.7% (24th)

What to Watch

1. Toughest Test

The Sabres began their western road trip last Thursday against the Avalanche with a 4-2 win, and then followed that up with a 5-2 win against the Coyotes on Saturday night. While Arizona hasn’t necessarily been a quality opponent this season (or most seasons for that matter), they had won four out of the last five games at home prior to facing the Sabres. On top of that, beating Colorado in Denver had been a tall task for Buffalo in recent years, with the Sabres only winning once (2017) at Ball Arena (formerly Pepsi Center) since 2005. Despite it all, Buffalo took both games with one matchup left on the road trip against the Golden Knights. This will be the toughest opponent on the trip so far, as the Avalanche have been hindered with injuries this season and the Coyotes are still in the bottom tier of the league.

While Vegas has dealt with injuries of their own this season, they still have the most points in the Western Conference and have gotten outstanding goaltending from both Logan Thompson and Adin Hill. The Sabres have also yet to beat the Golden Knights in Vegas since their inaugural season, making the struggles at T-Mobile Arena feel eerily similar to the ones at Ball Arena I previously mentioned. It will be a great opportunity for the Sabres to continue the momentum they’ve gained over the last few weeks, and break the curse to get their first ever win in Vegas.

2. No Rematch

During the first matchup this season between Buffalo and Vegas, Jack Eichel had a substantial impact against his former team, putting up 3 goals and an assist in a 7-4 victory for the Knights. While the Eichel vs. Buffalo matchup will always create a dramatic game experience for both sides, there’s no denying the former number 1 pick is challenging to contain. Unfortunately for Vegas, Eichel has continued to have trouble staying healthy, and was placed on injured reserve earlier in the month with a lower body injury. While it may be a let down for some fans to not get the chance to see another matchup against Jack Eichel, it does benefit the Sabres lineup to not have to deal with the Knights leading scorer and a player who will always come extra motivated to play against Buffalo.

While Eichel has made an impact for Vegas this season averaging a little over a point per game, the Sabres have hardly missed him as they have five players currently with more points, in only a few more games played (Thompson, Dahlin, Skinner, Tuch, Cozens). There’s no arguing Jack will make Vegas better in the years to come, but it’s clear to see the Sabres future is brighter without him, as the young core of players who want to be here continue to improve and develop.

3. Playoff Chase

Since going on an eight-game losing streak in early and mid-November, the Sabres have turned it around, posting a record of 8-3-2 in the last 13 games to put them just outside of a playoff spot. While it is still extremely early and there’s a lot of work to be done, Buffalo has shown greater resolve and is trending in a positive direction to at least be in the hunt late into the season. Currently, the Sabres are five points out of a playoff spot, with three of the teams ahead in the standings having played at least one more game than them. If Buffalo wants to have any chance of slipping into the playoffs later in the season, they need to beat some of the NHL’s best, like Vegas, especially while the Knights are more banged up as of late and have been mediocre in the month of December going 5-4-0 up to this point.

Projected Lineups

Buffalo Sabres

Forwards

Jeff Skinner - Tage Thompson - Alex Tuch

JJ Peterka - Dylan Cozens - Jack Quinn

Casey Mittelstadt - Tyson Jost - Victor Olofsson

Kyle Okposo - Peyton Krebs - Zemgus Girgensons

Defense

Kale Clague - Rasmus Dahlin

Lawrence Pilut - Mattias Samuelsson

Ilya Lyubushkin - Casey Fitzgerald

Goaltenders: Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (projected starter), Craig Anderson

Scratches: Vinnie Hinostroza, Rasmus Asplund, Jeremy Davies

Injuries: Eric Comrie, Owen Power, Jacob Bryson, Henri Jokiharju

Vegas Golden Knights

Forwards

Phil Kessel - Chandler Stephenson - Mark Stone

Riley Smith - William Karlsson - Jonathan Marchessault

Michael Amadio - Jake Leschyshyn - Jonas Rondbjerg

William Carrier - Nicolas Roy - Keegan Kolesar

Defense

Alec Martinez - Alex Pietrangelo

Brayden McNabb - Daniil Miromanov

Nicolas Hague - Ben Hutton

Goaltenders: Adin Hill (projected starter), Logan Thompson

Scratches: Paul Cotter, Brayden Pachal

Injuries: Jack Eichel, Brett Howden, Nolan Patrick, Zach Whitecloud, Robin Lehner