RALEIGH, N.C. — The Sabres' final pre-Christmas game is Saturday night in PNC Arena against the Carolina Hurricanes and it's the first of seven straight out of town for Buffalo. Note we can't say it's seven straight on the road because the Winter Classic Jan. 1 in Citi Field is considered a "home" game for the Sabres (wink-wink).
Carolina is 4-1 in its last five games after Thursday's 4-1 win in Nashville that saw the Canes pour in all of their goals in the first seven minutes against the defending Western Conference champions. The Sabres are 3-2-3 in their last eight games.
It's a 7 p.m. faceoff on MSG and WGR 550. Here are Five Things to Know:
1. Back-to-backs: This is Buffalo's ninth of 16 sets of back-to-back games this season. After Friday night's 4-2 win over Philadelphia, the are 3-6-0 in the first game of back-to-back sets and 2-4-2 in the second game. They have yet to get three or four points in any set this season; four times they've finished with two.
2. Lineup news: Carolina is going with backup goalie Cam Ward, who is 6-0-1 in his last eight games and got the win in Nashville. Starter Scott Darling got pasted in an 8-1 loss Monday in Toronto and is just 1-4-2 in his last seven decisions. Darling is 8-10-6/2.87/.896 while Ward is 7-2-1/2.87/.911.
(4:45 p.m. update): The Sabres will be going with backup Chad Johnson in goal. He's just 1-5-3/3.76/.880. Johnson is 0-5-2 in his last seven decisions since his only win Oct. 15 in Anaheim. He took the loss against Carolina eight days ago in Buffalo, a 5-4 overtime decision. One point in Johnson's favor: He has good career numbers against Carolina (7-2-1/2.38/.922).
Housley was cryptic was asked about changes in his lineup, saying only "Not at this point," and, "That's going to be all gametime decisions right now."
3. Not able against Canes: Carolina is going for a three-game sweep of the Sabres for the second straight year as Buffalo has lost five straight to Carolina for the first time since the franchise moved here from Hartford in 1997. Buffalo is 0-3-2 in those games, including 0-1-1 this year in two meetings at KeyBank Center. The Hurricanes posted a 3-1 win on No. 18 and survived Jack Eichel's hat trick to pull out a 5-4 overtime triumph on Dec. 15. Buffalo hasn't won a game in the series since a 3-2 victory here on March 22, 2016.
4. Jack in a Flash: Eichel has 11 points in his last nine games, with six goals and five assists. In the wake of his two empty-net goals Friday, Eichel has five goals in the last three games — the most in a three-game stretch in his career.
5. More Numbers Games: Rasmus Ristolainen will play his 300th career game tonight. He's third in the NHL in ice time at 26:52 per game. ... Ryan O'Reilly continues to lead the NHL in faceoff percentage at 61.9 while winning and taking the most draws (537 out of 867). ... The Sabres remain stuck on 15 first-period goals through 35 games, the lowest in the league for any team in any period ... Carolina has killed 25 straight penalties against the Sabres over the last 12 meetings. Buffalo doesn't have a power-play goal against the Canes since March 13, 2014.