Jack Eichel makes his Buffalo debut for the season Thursday as the Sabres host the New York Rangers at 7 p.m. in KeyBank Center. Jimmy Vesey comes to town with the Rangers in his first game against the Sabres since snubbing the franchise in the offseason.
Here are five things to know for the game:
1. Anders Nilsson will start in goal. Robin Lehner gave the media a good show at the morning skate, heading off the ice first – a typical sign that a goaltender is starting. But haha! No. Lehner will likely serve as the backup after injuring his hip in the first period against the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday. Lehner said he's feeling fine is and is hoping to play on Saturday when the Sabres host the Boston Bruins.
2. Eichel returns. In case you didn't hear, phenom Jack Eichel is back in the Sabres lineup after missing the first 21 games of the season with a high ankle sprain. This will be his first game in Buffalo and it comes against the highest-scoring team in the NHL.
"It's going to be a fast game," Eichel said. "I know I'm excited for it. The Rangers like to open it up and play hockey and that's what I like. I'm just looking forward to a good test for us. They're the No. 1 team and we've got to find ways to get points at home. This is a big game for us."
3. The Rangers love to score goals. The team already leads the NHL with 88 goals. The next closest is Pittsburgh with 69. New York has a plus-15 goal differential on the road (37 goals for, 22 against). The Rangers are one of two teams with three players already netting 10 or more goals – Michael Grabner (12), Kevin Hayes (10) and Rick Nash (10).
"They're a team that's leading and getting their offense from the defensive zone," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. "They're second-best in the league in offense from the defensive zone. You can attribute that to their forwards, their speed, they're putting pucks out in play for their forwards to skate under. ... That's where they're a dangerous team and frankly that's where we've been not good from defending."
4. The Rangers are good in Buffalo. New York has won nine of the last 10 meetings with Buffalo dating back to April 19, 2012. The Rangers have won the last five meetings in KeyBank Center, outscoring the Sabres by a combined 20-8,in those games.
5. The lines remain the same. At morning skate, the lines and defensive pairings remained the same from the 5-4 win in Ottawa:
William Carrier-Ryan O'Reilly-Kyle Okposo
Evander Kane-Jack Eichel-Sam Reinhart
Marcus Foligno-Johan Larsson-Brian Gionta
Matt Moulson-Derek Grant-Zemgus Girgensons
Jake McCabe-Rasmus Ristolainen
Josh Gorges-Cody Franson
Taylor Fedun- JustinFalk.