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Sabres vs. Oilers: Five Things to Know

It's the Sabres and Edmonton Oilers Friday night at 7 in KeyBank Center, the third career meeting with 2015 draft studs Jack Eichel and Connor McDavid (each missed one matchup in their first two seasons).

Here are Five Things to Know about tonight's game:

1. Risto is back: Rasmus Ristolainen has missed nine games with an upper-body injury suffered Nov. 2 in Arizona and the Sabres went 1-6-2 in his absence. He'll be back on the top defense pair tonight with Marco Scandella.

"It's great. It's been long weeks not being able to help the team," Ristolainen said. "I'm excited for tonight and I'm ready. We need to play better. We have to start working hard right from the first shift. You're not going to know what the result will be but at least you can work hard and bring it every night."

Ristolainen returning to Sabres' lineup; Nelson sent to Amerks

2. More lineup news: It will be Robin Lehner in goal against Edmonton backup Laurent Brossoit because starter Cam Talbot is sidelined with the flu. Neither has great numbers, with Lehner at 4-9-2/3.08/.902 and Brossoit at 0-2-1/3.62/.865. But Lehner has hugely better numbers at home (2-4-1/1.86/.939) than on the road (2-5-1/4.37/.866)

The Sabres' scratches will be Josh Gorges, Matt Moulson and Seth Griffith. The Oilers are facing a big loss in No. 1 defenseman Oscar Klefbom, who is also flu-ridden and a game-time decision, according to coach Todd McLellan. But the coach said of Klefbom, who averages 23:06 per game, that "odds are against him playing right now."

3. McDavid mania: Connor McDavid's team may not be winning but he's still scoring, with 28 points in 22 games. That puts him sixth in the NHL.

"He's very fun to watch and fun to be around and not only in games," said Sabres winger Benoit Pouliot, who played the last three years in Edmonton. "In practice, it was amazing to see what he could do with the puck and without the puck. It's nice for everyone to see that. Guys follow his lead and try to join what he's trying to bring to his game. It was fun to play with him, a very different game. He makes it a little easier out there for everyone else."

McDavid has a goal and five assists over the last three games but has faced some criticism in Edmonton of late for his defensive play after ringing up a minus-7 in consecutive losses to St. Louis, Dallas and St. Louis. He was plus-2 in Wednesday's 6-2 win in Detroit.

"I don't think you can feel sorry for yourself at all," McDavid said here today. "We're the ones who got ourselves in this and we're the ones who are going to get ourselves out. Detroit was a good response, good we were able to get a win and play the right way."

As teams' struggles continue, McDavid and Eichel look for answers

4. Vs. the Oilers: The Sabres are 9-4-1 in their last 14 games against Edmonton and looking for a three-game winning streak against them for the first time since winning six in a row between the teams in a stretch that spanned 2006-2012.

5. Back to back: The Sabres play Saturday night in Montreal, with tonight's game opening their sixth set of back-to-backs this season. Buffalo is just 1-4 in the opener of the first five sets but has gone 2-2-1 in the back half.

 

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