It's the penultimate preseason game for the Buffalo Sabres as they travel to Pittsburgh to face the Penguins.
The Sabres and Penguins met on Sept. 19 at Penn State with the Sabres earning a 4-3 overtime win. Since then, Buffalo has lost its last two preseason games.
Here's what you need to know for tonight's 7:05 p.m. faceoff, broadcast on MSG and WGR 550.
1. Pittsburgh will bring a big lineup. It looks like the regular Penguins lineup will be on the ice tonight. And that's pretty much what coach Phil Housley expected and frankly what his team needs at this stage of evaluation.
"This is a great team. They've won two Stanley Cups back to back for a reason," Housley said after the team had a morning skate in HarborCenter. "I anticipated them having a strong lineup. It's getting toward the end and they're trying to get their guys geared up. But at the same time it puts us in a good spot.
"Going on the road, we don't have to do anything fancy but we have to learn to play a 200-foot game against the good teams in the league and that's going to require a lot of energy. So I'd really like to keep the shifts short. I want us to bring the pace and the speed to their level or maybe a notch ahead."
Pittsburgh's lines at morning skate were:
Jake Guentzel-Sidney Crosby-Conor Sheary
Carl Hagelin-Evgeni Malkin-Phil Kessel
Tom Kuhnhackl-Greg McKegg-Bryan Rust
Scott Wilson-Carter Rowney-Ryan Reaves
Defensive pairings were:
Brian Dumoulin-Kris Letang
Olli Maatta-Matt Hunwick
Ian Cole-Justin Schultz
2. The evaluation continues for players looking to make the team. While Justin Bailey, Nick Baptiste and Seth Griffith are battling for two open right wing spots, only Bailey appears to be in the lineup tonight.
What is Housley looking for from players battling to make an NHL roster out of camp?
"Just what they bring on the ice. The competitive nature," Housley said. "Do they understand the concepts? Are they making an impact on the team or their line? We continue to evaluate all the players the last two games."
Based on morning skate activity, it appears that along with Baptiste and Griffith, Matt Moulson, Josh Gorges, Matt Tennyson, Marco Scandella and Rasmus Ristolainen will be scratches.
Morning skate line-combinations for the Sabres were:
Evander Kane-Jack Eichel-Jason Pominville
Zemgus Girgensons-Ryan O'Reilly-Kyle Okposo
Benoit Pouliot-Sam Reinhart-Justin Bailey
Nicolas Deslauriers-Jacob Josefson-Johan Larsson
Defensive pairings were:
Nathan Beaulieu-Zach Bogosian
Victor Antipin-Tayor Fedun
Justin Falk-Cody Goloubef
3. Chad Johnson will start in goal. He gets his first action since playing two periods against Pittsburgh at Penn State on Sept. 19. He allowed one goal on 23 shots in the no-decision.
"It's a good opportunity for him to start a game and get a game in," Housley said about Johnson. "I thought he did an excellent time last time he played Pittsburgh for two periods. So, we'll see him tonight."
4. Cuts will likely come after Friday's preseason game. Housley said the plan is to keep the current roster of 18 forwards, 11 defensemen and three goalies through the final preseason game against the New York Islanders on Friday in KeyBank Center.
"But those things can change," Housley said. "We've got two big games here, once against an excellent opponent and one at home. We've got to win our home game. So it will be interesting to see what happens after this game."
5. The captaincy is still up for grabs. The Sabres have not announced the official leadership group for the season and Housley said naming a captain will likely come after the preseason games.
"After the two preseason games, we'll re-evaluate and see how that goes," Housley said. "We really haven't gone down that road. This has only been a couple weeks of really getting on the ice with these guys and getting to know them, see how they react and how they fit into the team. That'll happen maybe after the preseason."