The Buffalo Sabres are set to meet the Washington Capitals. Sound familiar? It should. The teams meet for the third time in seven games Friday with a 7 p.m. faceoff in KeyBank Center.
Here's what you need to know for the final regular-season meeting between the clubs:
1. Welcome back to the blue line Kulikov and Gorges. The Sabres return two defensemen to the lineup – Dmitry Kulikov and Josh Gorges. Kulikov returns after missing 13 games with a back injury while Gorges was out three games with a foot injury.
2. Brendan Guhle will be going back to juniors. With both Kulikov and Gorges returning, Guhle will be sent back to the Prince George Cougars in the Western Hockey League since he was an emergency call-up. In three games he was a plus-1 with four shots on goal.
"I think there's significant evidence he showed he could play at this level," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. "At the same time he's 19-year-old kid. You know there's going to be some ups and downs in his game over the course of his NHL career but he did a pretty remarkable job stepping into a tough situation, a tough spot and showed he could play and contribute."
3. Robin Lehner will start in net but the forwards will be a game-time decision. Lehner gets the start with a 5-8-4 mark in his 18 games this season with a 2.41 goals against average and a .921 save percentage. But after the morning skate Friday, Bylsma would not say much about the rest of the lineup.
"I few decisions to make on our forward group," Bylsma said.
Nicolas Deslauriers took the morning skate, his second time skating with the team since suffering a knee injury in late October. Deslauriers has missed 19 games.
"There are just other issues," Bylsma said when asked if the forward decision was about the return of Deslauriers or other issues.
4. This is the third time in seven games the Sabres have played Washington. That means the teams are pretty familiar with each other at the moment. The Sabres are 0-1-1 in the previous two meetings, both in Washington. The Caps won the first game, 3-1, on Nov. 25 and earned a 3-2 overtime win on Dec. 5 after the Sabres had a 2-1 lead with six minutes left in regulation.
"It's easier to tweak and it's easier to prepare," Bylsma said of the way the schedule condensed the meetings with Washington. "We should know this team. This will be our third game in a short order. We should know what they do. We should know their tendencies and it's a little easier to tweak and do some things because you know what they're going to do.
"It's a little bit like the playoffs where you have time to prepare and you're playing the same team five, six, seven times and you can make those adjustments and hopefully use them to your advantage.
5. Five-game hot streak. In the last five games the Sabres are 3-1-1, scoring 16 goals in that span. The way the Sabres offense had been lately, that's a cornucopia of goals. Jack Eichel has five points in his five games this season (three goals, two assists) while Rasmus Ristolainen has seven points, including his first goal of the season, in his last five games. Also over the five-game streak, Ryan O'Reilly has six points (two goals, four assists) and Evander Kane five points (three goals, two assists).