GLENDALE, Ariz. -- With the playoff race slipping away, the Buffalo Sabres need a win tonight against the Arizona Coyotes to get a split of a two-game trip against the NHL's bottom two teams. Faceoff in Gila River Arena is at 8:30 p.m. on MSG. The Sabres enter the game eight points behind Boston, a 6-3 winner today in Dallas, and seven behind Toronto.
Here are Five Things to Know about the first meeting of the season with the Coyotes:
1. Battle of backups: With Robin Lehner banged up from a trio of high hits Saturday in Colorado, the Sabres are going with Anders Nilsson (9-7-4, 2.67/.922) in goal tonight against Arizona backup Louis Domingue (5-14-1, 3.38/.893). Nilsson has played just one game in February, the 5-4 overtime win Feb. 7 against San Jose.
And while Nilsson has been excellent at home (7-1-1, 2.07/.941), he's been struggling on the road (2-6-3, 3.20/.904) and has gone 0-4-1 in his last five. Domingue is making back-to-back starts for the first time since November in place of flu-ridden Mike Smith and has lost four starts in a row.
Coach Dan Bylsma said he's not too worried about Nilsson's inactivity because the bye week pushed the entire team off the ice, including Lehner.
"I kind of view the break as a break for everybody," he said. "Yeah, it's been one in a
long period of time for him but not much different of anyone else coming off the break."
2. Dominant in the desert: If there's a friendly home away from home for the Sabres, this is certainly it. Buffalo has won its last six games here, not losing since Jan. 21, 2008. The Sabres are 10-1-1 in their last 12 overall against the Coyotes, including a 5-0-1 mark since the beginning of the 2013-14 season. The Sabres' 2-1 win here last season ended with a line brawl that was considered a big coming-of-age moment in Buffalo's second half.
3. Looking for a bounceback: The Sabres frittered away two points to the NHL's 30th-ranked team Saturday night in Denver. They can't give away two more to team No. 29.
"It was disappointing not getting the two points in Colorado and knowing how important they are," Bylsma said. "The challenge is we've talked about winning two out of three games here for the next seven segments and we still have that opportunity. We should have disappointment not getting the win last night but we have to bounce back with our best effort, our best focus."
4. Trade winds blowing: While waiting to see what happens with the Sabres, the Coyotes are also a team people are watching closely. Centers Martin Hanzal and Ryan White were traded to Minnesota an hour before faceoff in a big deal that gets the Coyotes multiple high picks.
Martin Hanzal and Ryan White from ARI to MIN for picks as specified here: https://t.co/VBUkOjV4DA
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) February 27, 2017
Captain Shane Doan might also be dealt and it's interesting to note the Coyotes will be in Buffalo on deadline day. Hanzal is third all-time in Coyotes history in games played (608) and fifth in points (313).
5. Coyotes howling more of late: Arizona fell out of contention with a 2-12-1 slump that went from mid-December to mid-January. But the Coyotes are 8-6-1 since then and a 5-3-1 home mark includes wins over Pittsburgh, Florida and Tampa Bay.
"They crash the net really hard, something we saw last night the fourth goal against we gave up," Bylsma said. "It's something we're going to have to be good at here tonight."