The Buffalo Sabres' final game before the bye week is quite a doozy -- a nationally televised affair against the Chicago Blackhawks in KeyBank Center. Faceoff is shortly after 6 p.m. on NBC Sports Network with Gord Miller and Joe Micheletti on the call.
Here are Five Things to Know about tonight's game:
1. Buffalo lineup news: Reinhart remains in sick bay, Fedun clears waivers: Sabres winger Sam Reinhart remains riddled by the flu and will not play tonight. Nick Baptiste came up from Rochester to take Reinhart's place with Jack Eichel and Evander Kane, and scored his third goal of the season in Saturday's 3-2 win over St. Louis.
Reinhart, who has 13 goals and 24 assists, had played the season's first 58 games until sitting out Saturday.
"He came in this morning and hasn’t been able to get some food in him or a meal," Buffalo coach Dan Bylsma said during his pregame media briefing late this afternoon. "He wasn’t looking too good this morning, so he won’t be in tonight."
Defenseman Taylor Fedun, who was put on waivers Saturday, cleared them Sunday and was assigned to Rochester.
"A little nervous that he wouldn’t squeak through there. He did," Bylsma said. "Still, he’s a good part of depth defensive corps. He’s been able to play some big games for us and some good games for us. We still have that in our bag."
2. Hawks' domination: Chicago has won 10 straight in the series but there have been some close calls of late. The Sabres suffered a heartbreaker Jan. 5 in United Center as Patrick Kane's overtime goal gave the Hawks a 3-2 win in a game they tied in the final 2 1/2 minutes. Chicago's last two visits here have also been thrillers: The Hawks won last year in a shootout, 3-2, after Kane tied the game in final minute of regulation on a rare 6-on-3 advantage, and pulled out a 4-3 win on April 3, 2015 with two goals from captain Jonathan Toews reversing a 3-2 deficit in the final two minutes.
"Very fortunate our last two times in here and pulling one out earlier in the year against them," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said today. "Exactly how their team is going, they're getting better. They're deeper. They're playing better than when we saw them last. We expect a hard game. They've got balance in their lineup and they've got some momentum on their side as well, so we know this is going to be a hard game."
3. In the nets: Robin Lehner (17-16-6, 2.47/.926) will make his seventh straight start and 11th in the last 12 games for Buffalo. Meanwhile, backup Scott Darling (13-5-2, 2.24/.927) gets the call for Chicago after Corey Crawford played in Saturday's 3-1 loss to Edmonton. That could be a break for the Sabres: Crawford is 8-0 against Buffalo with 1.86/.929 figures.
Darling has helped the Hawks survive back-to-backs very well: They're 7-2-1 in the second contest of those sets. Buffalo is 4-5-1 in game two. This is the Sabres' 11th of a league-high 19 back-to-backs this season.
4. Final game before the bye: This is the Sabres' last game before they get the NHL-mandated bye week. They return to practice Friday in Denver and meet the Avalanche Saturday in Pepsi Center. The Sabres are gunning for their first four-game winning streak since Dec. 9-15, 2014. They're 6-1-2 in their last nine games at home vs. Central Division teams, and 14-3-3 in their last 20 at home against the Western Conference.
5. Kanes are Able: Evander Kane scored his 20th goal of the season for the Sabres Saturday, reaching the mark for the third time in his NHL and in both of his seasons in Buffalo. He leads the league since Dec. 1 with 19 even-strength goals. Patrick Kane leads the Hawks and is tied for seventh in the NHL with 58 points on 19 goals and 39 assists. The latter figure is fourth in the league. The South Buffalo native has 13 points in 12 career games against his hometown team, with seven goals and six assists.