The Buffalo Sabres are looking to snap a three-game winless streak when they host the Minnesota Wild at 7 p.m. in KeyBank Center. The Wild meanwhile are coming off a 5-0 win in Boston on Tuesday and are tied with St. Louis for the top spot int he Western Conference Central Division.
Here are five things you need to know about Thursday's game:
1. Anders Nilsson gets his second straight start.
The backup is back in net as Sabres starter Robin Lehner will miss is second game with an illness.
"I guess starting to feel better although I wouldn't say he's ready to be around the group," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said when asked if Lehner's health was improving. "So hopefully that might possibly happen (Friday) if he continues to feel better and progress."
2. Ristolainen will be playing in his 200th game.
Buffalo defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen will play in his 200th NHL game Thursday, on his 22nd birthday. According to the Elias Sports Bureau he is the fourth-youngest player to appear in his 200th NHL game with the Sabres. Pierre Turgeon was 20 years, 136 days old when he played No. 200 in 1990, Phil Housley was 20 years, 343 years old in 1985 and Tom Barrasso was 21 years, 360 days old in 1987.
"It happens more and more in our league where players are playing their third, fourth and fifth year when they're under the age of 23 and Rasmus is one of those guys," Bylsma said. "He's turning 22 years old. I'm trying to look back to where I was when I was 22 years old and it wasn't 200 games in the National Hockey League."
3. Minnesota has been scoring. A lot.
The Wild are one of the highest scoring teams in the NHL this month with 24 goals in seven games. In Minnesota’s past 11 games against the Sabres, the Wild have outscored Buffalo, 37-23. Minnesota is 7-2 all-time playing in Buffalo including winning the last three games.
4. Former Sabres are enjoying success with the Wild.
Jason Pominville scored his 250th NHL goal on Tuesday and comes into Thursday’s game with three points (two goals, one assist). Pominville has six points (two goals, four assists) and a game-winning goal against the Sabres after playing 578 games for Buffalo and serving as team captain. Chris Stewart, who played with the Sabres in 2013-15, has four points (two goals, two assists) this year and a team-leading 19 penalty minutes.
5. It's Hockey Fights Cancer Night.
The Sabres will participate in the league-wide initiative during Thursday's game. The game has a special meaning for Sabres' forward Marcus Foligno whose mother, Janis, died from breast cancer in 2009.
"It's a special day for myself, obviously. It touches home," Foligno said. "Losing my mother to breast cancer, this day means a lot to me. It's a little more special to play on a day like today. It makes you think about my mother and the hard work she put into my hockey career and getting me to the NHL so you think about her and you always play for her but on this day you want to play a little harder. It makes a special day."
The event features a ceremonial faceoff, Hockey Fights Cancer warmup jerseys (which will be auctioned after the game at auctions.NHL.com), autographed hats for sale and commemorative rally towels. Hockey Fights Cancer t-shirts, with proceeds to benefit Roswell Park Cancer Institute, will be for sale at the Sabres Store and Roswell Park and will also be available online at shop.onebuffalo.com.