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Five Things to Know as Sabres visit Predators

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Buffalo Sabres get to face Nashville’s backup goaltender Tuesday. Before anyone gets excited, Juuse Saros is really good.

Here are Five Things to Know as the Sabres visit the Predators in Bridgestone Arena.

1. Dmitry Kulikov is back for the Sabres.

Buffalo’s blue line gets a boost with the return of Kulikov, who has been out since Dec. 27 with a back injury.

2. Nashville hands crease to Saros.

Former Vezina Trophy finalist Pekka Rinne is still performing well with Nashville (18-12-6, .921 save percentage, 2.34 goals-against average), but the Preds don’t have a drop-off when he sits. Saros is 5-3-1 with a ridiculous .952 save percentage and 1.44 GAA in nine appearances.

The 21-year-old has won four of his last five starts. The Predators drafted him in 2013 with the fourth-round pick acquired from Buffalo in the Paul Gaustad trade.

3. Robin Lehner gets the nod for Buffalo.

The Sabres goaltender is 3-0 in his last four starts, with a no-decision when he was pulled from last Tuesday’s game in Toronto. He has a .943 save percentage during the three victories over Montreal, Dallas and Winnipeg.

4. Buffalo’s top forwards like facing the Predators.

Ryan O’Reilly is riding a five-game point streak against Nashville, recording four assists and six points. Evander Kane has six assists and seven points in his last six games versus the Predators. Kyle Okposo has seven career appearances against Nashville, and he’s put up four assists and six points.

Sabres’ lines:

Tyler Ennis-O’Reilly-Okposo
Marcus Foligno-Jack Eichel-Sam Reinhart
Kane-Zemgus Girgensons-Brian Gionta
William Carrier-Cal O’Reilly-Matt Moulson

Expected defense pairs:

Kulikov-Rasmus Ristolainen
Zach Bogosian-Cody Franson
Justin Falk-Taylor Fedun

5. Nashville can score.

The Predators, who have won five of six, rank 14th in the NHL at 2.72 goals per game. They are third with 58 goals during second periods.

The Sabres have seven goals from their defensemen this season. Nashville, meanwhile, boasts blue-liners Ryan Ellis (eight goals) and P.K. Subban (seven).

“When you scout their team,” Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said, “you see those players throughout their lineup joining from the back end and being dangerous in doing so.”

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