LOS ANGELES -- If you can pull yourself away from the late-night NCAA Tournament action, the Buffalo Sabres have a 10:30 p.m. game tonight here at Staples Center against the Los Angeles Kings. And it's an opponent desperate to stay in the playoff race, facing a four-point deficit to St. Louis for the last Western Conference wild-card slot.
With a 2-7-2 record in their last 11, the Sabres' playoff hopes are shot for a sixth straight year as they play out their final 12 games. Dun Dunleavy and Rob Ray have the call tonight on MSG. Here are Five Things to Know about the matchup:
1. Lineups: Both teams had optional morning skates, with the goaltending matchup expected to be Robin Lehner (19-21-8, 2.69/.920) against Jonathan Quick (4-1-1, 2.33/.917), who missed most of the season with a groin injury. In his career against Buffalo, Quick is 4-1, 1.41/.933.
Hudson Fasching and Taylor Fedun enter the Buffalo lineup in place of Justin Bailey and Justin Falk, both suffering lower-body injuries from being struck by shots.
2. The road isn't taken: The last 13 games between the Sabres and Kings in NHL arenas have been won by the home team (the Sabres won as the "road" team during the teams' 2011 meeting in Berlin). The last time one of these teams won in the other's arena was a 5-1 Sabres victory at Staples on Oct. 23, 2003. Buffalo is 1-9-2 in their last 12 games in LA dating to the 1996-97 season. The Kings are 0-6-2 in their last eight games in Buffalo, with their last win on Feb. 21, 2003.
3. Staples shutouts: Recent history isn't kind to the Sabres here. They have suffered three straight shutout losses in Staples Center, all by 2-0 scores. Their last goal here was scored by captain Craig Rivet at 1:07 of the third period in a 4-3 shootout loss on Jan. 21, 2010. The current scoreless strek in the building for Buffalo is 203 minutes, 53 seconds.
4. Fasching's long-awaited return: Fasching, who is likely to skate with Marcus Foligno and Evan Rodrigues, has not played an NHL game since Oct. 30 and missed three months with a severe groin injury. He was brimming with excitement today about his return and about doing it against an elite opponent.
"They're a very structured team, big and strong," Fasching said of the Kings, his orginal organization before being acquired by Buffalo in a 2014 trade. "For me coming right back in their face, big strong hockey is what I'm looking to do. It's kind of fighting fire with fire here and it's not necessarily a bad thing. I definitely want to play that power game tonight."
5. Special teams battle: The Sabres remain No. 1 in the NHL on the power play at 23.1 percent while the Kings are fourth on the penalty kill at 85 percent. Oddly enough, LA is No. 1 on the PK on the road (87.0) but just No. 15 at home (82.4). The Kings have killed off 56 of their last 60 attempts while their power play has been equally hot, going 10 for the last 26.
The Buffalo power play is 8 for its last 23 and the second unit could get a boost tonight from Fedun, who had three power-play assists for the Sabres earlier in the season.