OTTAWA − It's the final meeting of the season for the Sabres against the Ottawa Senators and the 7:30 game in Canadian Tire Centre gives Buffalo another chance to creep closer in the playoff race. The Sabres are five points behind both Toronto and Philadelphia for the East's final wild-card slot.
Here are Five Things to Know about Sabres vs. Sens:
1. Lineup news: Coach Dan Bylsma said defenseman Zach Bogosian will return to the lineup after missing six games with a rib injury and that Taylor Fedun will be a healthy scratch. Winger Evander Kane, the team's co-leader in goals with 18, stayed away from the rink today with the flu and Bylsma said he will be a gametime decision. Matt Moulson skated in Kane's place with Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart. Longtime Sabres nemesis Chris Neil is back in the lineup for Ottawa after sitting out five of the last seven games as a healthy scratch.
2. In the nets: Robin Lehner (14-16-6, 2.57/.923) will face the veteran he formally served as backup for in Craig Anderson (13-6-1, 2.34/.927). Anderson missed 26 games while his wife is undergoing cancer treatments and returned Saturday night to post a 3-0 win over the New York Islanders. Lehner has been dominant against his old mates, going 3-0-2, 1.18/.961 in seven career starts.
Lehner held court with a big Ottawa media contingent today in the wake of two days of chatter after the Sabres' dreary 4-2 loss Sunday night over Vancouver.
"We've moved on. It's been a couple of days," Lehner said. "We're preparing for this game. There's no issues."
"He's backed his words up with his play. He's been phenomenal at times for us this year," said winger Marcus Foligno. "He's a big voice in this room with a lot of emotion, as he should be."
3. Dominating the Sens: The Sabres are 3-0-1 against Ottawa this season and have points in seven straight games against them (5-0-2). They have never had points in eight straight against Ottawa since it rejoined the NHL in 1992. A win tonight would give the Sabres three straight wins here and points in five straight since for the first time they won five in a row here in a 19-month span from April, 2010 to November, 2011.
Buffalo's 4-0 win over the Senators Feb. 4 in KeyBank Center rates as one of its most complete games of the season and was its most dominant win at home.
"It's the way you match up with some teams creating better off the rush and others off zone chances," said captain Brian Gionta. "That's how matchups can differ, why you're better than one team over another. The last game was one of our most complete games, something we have to bottle and try to continue doing."
4. Getting on the power play: The Sabres continue to lead the NHL on the power play at 23.4 percent but are hoping to get more chances. They've had just 10 power plays over the last six games − while opponents have had 22 in that span. Three times in that stretch, the Sabres had either none or one man-advantage for an entire game.
Frustration among the team and its fans was clearly evident during Sunday's loss to Vancouver as the Sabres got just one power play chance in the first 54 minutes before getting two in the late going while the Canucks had six in the game.
"It was a bit of a distraction for us when we didn't get power plays and they got some," Bylsma admitted of the Vancouver game. "When no one gets them, there's not much to complain about. But we got on the wrong end of the penalty game the last game."
Bylsma said the Sabres need to push their north-south speed approach.
"We should be drawing penalties. We have to do a better job," he said. "If you want to get a penalty, go out and draw it. Not by diving. But with the way you play, they should have to take penalties against you."
5. Crowd count: Ottawa is just six points behind Montreal − with five games in hand − for the Atlantic Division lead but fans haven't been coming out to the arena in suburban Kanata in bigger numbers until the last couple weeks and a snowy Tuesday forecast might not help this one. The Sens average 16,321 tickets sold per game in the 18,572-seat facility and are 25th in the NHL in playing to just 85 percent of capacity. There's plenty of talk of a new downtown arena to replace CTC, which opened in 1994.