Closing out a busy stretch of six games in 11 nights, the Buffalo Sabres host the Carolina Hurricanes at 7 p.m. tonight in KeyBank Center. The Sabres are 2-1-2 in their last five games, while the Canes are 1-2-2.
Faceoff is shortly after 7 p.m. on MSG and WGR Radio 550.
Here are five things to know ahead of the visit from the Canes:
1. In the nets: Robin Lehner is red-hot in the last five games (2-1-2, 2.32/935), but Chad Johnson will get the call tonight for the Sabres. In his career against Carolina, Johnson is 7-2, 2.10/.931. Johnson's stats for the season are far worse (1-5-2, 3.64/883), but he's had little hope in most of those games — the Sabres have scored just one goal for him the last six times he's been on the ice.
"He's played really well, except the start against Minnesota," coach Phil Housley said today, referring to a 5-4 loss to the Wild on Nov. 22 that saw Johnson pulled after three first-period goals. "... I've really like what I've seen. We haven't given him a lot of run support in the goal department, and he needs to get a game."
The Hurricanes did not skate today, and it will be interesting to see what they do in goal tonight. Starter Scott Darling is 0-3-2 in his last five starts and 7-9-6/2.72/.899 for the season. Cam Ward (5-2-1, 2.96, .907) has played only nine games this year but is 2-0-1 in his last three and posted a 3-2 shootout win in the Canes' last game Tuesday in Vegas. It was Ward's 300th career win, making him the 32nd goalie all-time and the sixth active one to reach 300.
2. No word on the lineup: Housley said any changes tonight will be a game-time decision. The only players who skated this morning were Jordan Nolan, current healthy scratches Josh Gorges and Hudson Fasching, the injured Jacob Josefson and Nathan Beaulieu, who has missed four games with the flu.
After losing 10 pounds, Beaulieu pronounced himself ready today and is waiting for the call.
"It's probably one of the sickest I've been in my life," Beaulieu said today. "I lost a crazy amount of weight, and when you do that as an athlete it's a real shock because your body's so important to you and playing at the same weight. It's been a tough grind on the way back, but this morning I felt like I had a lot of energy, and it was definitely my best day yet."
3. Back to backs: The Sabres are halfway through their back to backs on the season. This is their eighth of 16 sets, with a record of 2-6 in the first game and 2-4-1 in the second. The Sabres have yet to get three or four points in any of the sets to date.
4. Power play not even getting chances: The Sabres have only three power plays in the last two games, and they may not getting many tonight as the Hurricanes lead the NHL in fewest penalty minutes at just 6.1 per game. The Sabres had scored a power play goal in three straight games before failing to tally on their only chance in Thursday's 2-1 loss at Philadelphia. They have not scored a power-play goal in their last 11 meetings with Carolina, going 0 for 23 in a streak dating to March 13, 2014.
"We'll have to take advantage of the power plays we do get," Housley said. "We understand Philly was a low-penalized team as well, and that's the message to our team. When we have an opportunity with special teams, they're going to play an important role in the game."
5. Fun with numbers: This is the 200th all-time meeting for the Sabres with the Hartford/Carolina franchise. Buffalo is 102-72-25, including 58-33-8 at home. The Canes won here, 3-1, on Nov. 18, and the teams stage their only meeting of the season in Raleigh on Dec. 23. ... Tonight is Sam Reinhart's 200th NHL appearance, and the Buffalo winger is in the worst slump of his career, with just one assist over the last 10 games. ... Evander Kane continues to lead Buffalo in goals (14) and points (28). Tuevo Teravinen leads the Canes in points (24) and assists (16) while Jeff Skinner is tops in goals (11).