WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- The Sabres play the second half of their first back-to-back of the season Sunday afternoon against the Winnipeg Jets in MTS Centre, with Robin Lehner scheduled to return to the net for the first time in 10 days after missing three games with the flu.
Here are five things to know about today's game:
1. Things are a little different on the air.
The game starts shortly after 3 on MSG as usual. If you're looking on radio however, it will be on WBEN (930 AM and wben.com) because of the Bills-New England game.
2. Lehner has been very pedestrian so far.
With a 1-2-1 record, a 3.01 goals-against average and .892 save percentage, the play of the Sabres' starter has mirrored his team for much of the season. But it's time for him to get back in the net and coach Dan Bylsma said today he did not consider keeping Anders Nilsson in goal after Saturday's 3-0 shutout win over Florida.
"I was real pleased to see Anders come back from the Minnesota game with the strong performance he had," Bylsma said, referring to Thursday's dreary 4-0 loss to the Wild. "He played excellent yesterday but I didn't think for a moment that Robin wasn't going in this case, with back to back games and the travel and (the need for) getting Robin back in there."
3. The Sabres are dealing with another long-term injury.
Bylsma revealed that winger Nicolas Deslauriers is going to be out weeks with a knee injury suffered in a mid-ice collision in the final two minutes yesterday. Nicholas Baptiste has been called up from Rochester -- and had to fly here this morning from the Amerks' trip in St. John's, Newfoundland, to make it for a 2 p.m. local start. Defenseman Casey Nelson continues to be the healthy scratch.
4. The ex-teammate factor looms large.
Evander Kane's absence due to injury should keep things relatively sane, compared to the circus atmosphere among the Winnipeg media and fans that the Sabres' visit in January brought out. Among other things, the crowd chanted "Where's your track suit?" at Kane in his first game back at MTS after being traded to the Sabres in February, 2015.
Kane had the last laugh, passing to Sam Reinhart for the empty net goal that completed the rookie's first hat trick and a 4-2 victory. That was Buffalo's first win here since the Jets rejoined the NHL in 2011 -- and its first in Winnipeg overall since 1993. The Sabres had been 0-5 in the building, scoring just four goals in those games.
It's another game in Winnipeg for former Jet Zach Bogosian. Meanwhile, former Sabres No. 1 pick Joel Armia is starting to produce for the Jets with a goal and two assists in a career-high three-game point streak. Tyler Myers has two goals, a plus-1 rating and is averaging 23:51 of ice time while Drew Stafford, who turns 31 today, has one assist in six games. He has missed the last two with an upper-body injury and is expected to remain out today.
5. There's a new Finnish Flash on the Canadian prairies.
Jets winger Patrik Laine, selected No. 2 overall in the draft in June at KeyBank Center, is evoking comparisons to Teemu Selanne, circa 1992-93, in these parts with his fabulous start. He is tied for the NHL lead with six goals (five at home) and has added two assists for eight points in eight games.
"I am curious and eager to watch him play, see what he is and what he can do," Bylsma admitted. "I'll be a lot more eager to see him I think after the afternoon is over. He is dangerous. He can shoot the puck. There's some players that put their head down and shoot it, blow it through a goalie and it finds a way into the net. He's picked some pretty small spots so far this year to score some goals."
Laine sent shivers league wide with his hat trick Oct. 19 against Toronto, including an overtime winner that helped the Jets wipe out a 4-0 deficit and win 5-4. Check it out here, including Michael Hutchinson's save on an Auston Matthews breakaway just before Laine's OT goal: