For a team that the Sabres often played eight times a season and one they've played more games against than any opponent in their history, it's pretty amazing to think it's been 355 days since the Boston Bruins have been in KeyBank Center. But that's the case tonight as the B's are here for the first time since their 4-2 win on Dec. 29, 2016.
The Sabres are in the midst of a decent stretch, with points in five of their last six games (2-1-3). This is the first of a three-game week prior to Buffalo's holiday break.
Here are Five Things to Know about tonight's game:
1. On the air: Faceoff is around 7:35 tonight and it's an NBC Sports Network telecast with John Forslund and Brian Boucher on the call. Dan Dunleavy and Rob Ray have the honors on WGR Radio.
It's the beginning of a big national week on television for the Sabres. On Wednesday night at 8, NHL Network will present its hour-long retrospective, "The First NHL Winter Classic, Hockey Goes Outside" on the 2008 Sabres-Penguins game in Ralph Wilson Stadium. Wednesday at 11:30 on NBCSN will be part two of the "Road to the Winter Classic" reality show featuring the current editions of the Sabres and New York Rangers.
2. In the net: Robin Lehner (7-13-4, 2.84/.911) goes tonight for the Sabres and his 19th appearance vs. Boston is his most vs. any opponent. Lehner is just 4-10-3 in his career against the Bruins with Buffalo and Ottawa but has decent numbers against them in those games (2.80/.920). Lehner has taken over the NHL lead in home goals-against average at 2.02 (among goalies with at least 300 minutes). He's fourth in home save percentage at .931.
The Bruins did not skate today so their lineup will not be set until this evening. Tuukka Rask has played two straight games, including Monday's 7-2 home win over Columbus. That means Anton Khudobin (7-2-2, 2.67/.915) could be in line to play tonight. Khudobin is 3-1-2/2.46/.917 in his career against the Sabres.
3. The Sabres lineup: With Hudson Fasching sent to Rochester, the Sabres have just one extra forward and newly acquired Scott Wilson will be a healthy scratch tonight. Josh Gorges and Justin Falk will sit out on defense. Jordan Nolan sat Friday's game against Carolina but is back in to rejoin Jacob Josefson, who returns to the lineup tonight after missing nine games with a recurrence of his ankle problems that began when he blocked a shot Oct. 15 in Anaheim. Josefson had his first Buffalo goal and assist in a three-game spell in November before the ankle sidelined him again.
The lines are expected to look like this:
4. Against Boston: The Sabres are 3-7-4 in their last 14 games against Boston and snapped an 0-5-2 slide against them with a 5-4 overtime win Oct. 21 in TD Garden. Buffalo rallied from 3-0 and 4-1 deficits in that game and won it on Ryan O'Reilly's goal in OT. It's the only OT winner the Sabres have this year, as they are 1-6 in game-deciding goals.
"The Buffalo-Boston games have always been physical," said a smiling coach Phil Housley, an alumnus of the teams' 1980s battles that extended into the postseason. "It's a big divisional game. They're in a pretty good spot right now. Playing well. They're not giving up a lot right now. ... We understand we're going to have manage the puck well.
5. Bruins update: Boston is coming off Monday's 7-2 pounding of Columbus at home, a game that saw the Bruins roll to victory as they outshot the Blue Jackets, 45-18. The Bruins are 10-3-1 in their last 14 games after starting the season 6-7-4. They have a wicked top line with Patrice Bergeron (8-14-22) centering team all-categories leader David Pastrnak (15-16-31) and Brad Marchand (14-15-29). Rookie winger Danton Heinen, a 2014 third-round pick, is at 8-13-21.
The Bruins lead the NHL in fewest shots on goal against (671) and their shots-for figure of 786 gives them an NHL-high 53.9 shots percentage. They're second in Corsi, which measures attempts, at 53.74. By comparison, the Sabres are 22nd and 24th in those figures at 48.6 and 47.7, respectively.
"They've made a big commitment to their play without the puck," Housley said. "They're paying particular attention to detail when they don't have it. They're being stingy."