The Buffalo Sabres are back in KeyBank Center for a nationally televised game Tuesday night, meeting the Philadelphia Flyers in a 7:30 faceoff on NBC Sports Network.
The Sabres will be trying to bounce back from their second straight lost weekend and keep their slim playoff hopes alive just as they head into a particularly grueling part of the schedule. Their next five games: A home-and-home with Columbus, followed by a trip to San Jose, Los Angeles and Anaheim. Yikes.
Here are Five Things to Know about the Sabres and Flyers:
1. Sabres stumbles: Buffalo is 1-4-2 in its last seven games, allowing 27 goals in those contests and blowing third-period leads in three of them. The latest was Sunday's 4-3 crusher at Pittsburgh, a game that saw the Sabres hold a 3-0 lead after one period but eventually lose on two goals in the final five minutes.
The team stayed off the ice Monday and meetings were somber. Coach Dan Bylsma's team has been resilient in the face of tough losses but the coach admitted today he's worried about the aftermath of the latest setback.
"It's going to be a tale of the game, us rebounding from the emotional hit from the last game," Bylsma said. "I've talked about it and we've addressed it at different times at different games. ... We're going to have to take the temperature real early on in this game with where we're at and how we're responding to two days ago."
2. Vs. the Flyers: The Sabres are 1-0-1 against Philadelphia this season, with the 4-3 shootout loss Oct. 25 in Philly setting the stage for a season of late disappointment. Buffalo had a 3-0 lead early in the third period and gave up the tying two goals in the final three minutes. All three of Philly's goals came on the power play.
The Sabres bounced back for a full-marks, 4-1 win over the Flyers here on Jan. 10. A win tonight would give Buffalo three straight home wins against the Flyers for the first time since Oct. 17, 2006-Dec. 17, 2007. The Flyers are just 3-11-3 in their last 17 games on the road this season.
"We've probably played five really good periods against the Flyers," Bylsma said. "I thought our last 60 minutes against them was one of our better 60-minute games if you point to throughout the year. They're a team that's very aggressive on their forecheck and get to their game by playing there and creating turnovers. We were very good at breaking out, limiting their time and going the other way. Didn't give them that opportunity to get into that physical, forechecking game."
The Flyers are 2-0-1 in their last three games but 4-6-2 in their last 12 and in danger of becoming the first team in NHL history to miss the playoffs in a season that saw them ring up a 10-game winning streak. That run went from Nov. 27-Dec. 14 and the Flyers are just 11-16-5 since.
3. Lineup notes: In the nets, it will be Robin Lehner (18-18-8, 2.59/.922) vs. Philadelphia's Steve Mason (18-17-7, 2.75/.906). Anders Nilsson played the two previous games against the Flyers this season while Mason will be making his third appearance against Buffalo.
The Sabres' forward lines in the morning skate were:
4. Life of O'Reilly: Ryan O'Reilly played a season-high 25 minutes, 32 seconds Sunday in Pittsburgh, pushing him into the NHL lead for ice time among forwards at 21:43 per game. O'Reilly has scored goals in three straight games for the second time in his two years as a Sabre.
"I'm never going to say no to going on the ice," O'Reilly said. "If it was up to me, I'd play the full 60. Anyone here in the room would want to play as much as they can. I have no problem with it. It can be tough but you have to mange the shifts better."
Forwards ice time
O'Reilly BUF 21:43
Kesler ANA 21:33
PKane CHI 21:30
Trocheck FLA 21:16
McDavid EDM 21:07
5. The Eichel Watch: With 42 points in 45 games, Jack Eichel is two points behind O'Reilly for the team lead. He enters tonight on a career-best 10-game point streak (three goals, 10 assists) that is the longest active run in the NHL. It's the longest by a Sabre since Tim Connolly's 16-gamer during the 2009-10 season.
Eichel enters this game two points shy of 100 for his career. Since returning from injury Nov. 29, Eichel is tied for 10th in the NHL in points (16-26-42) and leads the league with 185 shots on goal. Since Feb. 1, Eichel has an NHL-best 17 assists and is tied with Chicago's Patrick Kane for the most points with 21.