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Sabres at Red Wings: Five Things to Know

DETROIT -- The Sabres are in Little Caesars Arena Friday night for their first game against the Detroit Red Wings in the league's most elaborate new facility. The $863 million arena built adjacent to Comerica Park (Tigers) and Ford Field (Lions) features a multitude of restaurants that are open to the public during the day and a giant concourse featuring the preserved marquee of Olympia Stadium, the Wings' home until 1979.

The 7:35 game on MSG and WGR Radio is Buffalo's third straight on the road and the Sabres have endured overtime losses in the first two, at Montreal and Pittsburgh. Here are Five Things to Know about tonight's game:

1) Lineup notes: It will Robin Lehner vs. Jimmy Howard in goal, with Lehner posting a 1-0 shutout over the Wings when the teams met Oct. 24 in KeyBank Center. Justin Falk, who missed practice Thursday, was back on the top defensive pair today with Marco Scandella. The Red Wings are expecting Trevor Daley to play tonight after he left Wednesday's game against Calgary early. Winger Andreas Athanasiou missed the first 10 games in a contract dispute, including the game in Buffalo, and has four goals and six points in his nine games back.

2) Making his debut: Kyle Criscuolo, called up from Rochester on Thursday, will make his debut tonight centering Jordan Nolan and Zemgus Girgensons. The Sabres' other lines are the same: Kane-Eichel-Reinhart, Pouliot-O'Reilly-Okposo and Griffiths-Larsson-Pominville.

"I don't need to be making crazy plays in my first game. Just make the simple plays and get to the net," said Criscuolo. "Everybody is adjusting to a new building and I'm on the same playing field in this room in terms of that. That helps me feel pretty comfortable."

Criscuolo said his parents, brother, sister and girlfriend are all heading here from New Jersey for the game, as are some friends from Florida and Boston.

Criscuolo on the cusp of his NHL debut with the Sabres

3) On Motown's rinks: The Sabres went 14-23-3-3 at Joe Louis Arena (1979-2017) and 8-15-2 at the Olympia (1970-79). This is the 72nd road arena the Sabres will play a game in. The Sabres have won four straight vs. the Wings for the first time since a five-game streak in 1981-82. Buffalo has won two straight in Detroit for the first time since a five-game run from Feb. 16, 1980 to Dec. 12, 1981.

"It's a very nice arena. I like the feeling in here," Lehner said. "Nice and clean and bright. The boards were pretty bouncy but we know every arena is a little different. This is fairly bouncy. Pucks were coming pretty fast off the boards."

4) Witkowski gets the book: Detroit winger Luke Witkowski will serve the first of a 10-game suspension for returning to the rink to join a fight Wednesday against Calgary. The Wings, obviously, are not happy about it.

"Honestly, I didn't know that was a rule and I obviously know now," Witkowski said today in his first comments on the ban. "I knew it was a rule you couldn't jump the boards. I thought it was a grey area here with the door being opened but lesson learned and you move on from here."

"I don't think the punishment fits the crime," said coach Jeff Blashill. "I read the rule. I don't the think the way the rule is written gives the league office ... or anyone in that department really any ability to apply judgment because it's so black and white.

"You're going to go through the season and see lots of things done that get way less games. There's going to be guys who elbow people in the head, guys who use their stick as a weapon and they're going to use less games, yet their intent to injure is way greater."

Wings' Witkowski gets 10-game suspension for role in brawl, ban starts against Sabres

5) Avoid the shootout: The Sabres have dropped two straight in overtime but need to keep attacking in that area tonight. The Red Wings had an NHL-record run of 12 straight shootout victories end Monday in Columbus. The Sabres, obviously, have not been good in that area with just four wins over the last three seasons. Lehner is only 7-16 in his career.

"They've got a lot of skill over there but if it goes into overtime that first draw would be really good to win," said coach Phil Housley. "Then you can get the possession and maintain possession and set an attack. Overtime is mainly manning your check, having an awareness where your check is at all times. You can't blink. They've got speed so you really have to manage that area."


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