It's the last game before the Buffalo Sabres begin their bye week and the team remains desperate for a win. The Sabres are on a four-game losing streak and host the Columbus Blue Jackets Thursdady night at 7 in KeyBank Center.
Here's what you need to know to get ready:
1. The Sabres are looking for passion in their game. Wednesday's practice featured a loud rant from defenseman Justin Falk, arguably the most emotion the Sabres have shown on the ice in practice in years. But the passion means nothing unless they can direct it into a game.
"We're hoping to put some of that energy into the game tonight," said Sabres forward Kyle Okposo. "We're focusing on the Columbus Blue Jackets and that's a heck of a hockey club over there. We're going to have to use some of that passion and energy to try and inflict our will upon them. ... We just have to make sure we're using that passion, that energy in the right ways. To get better, to move forward and to help us get out of this funk."
2. Linus Ullmark earns his first NHL start of the season. The 24-year-old will play in his 22nd NHL game. Ullmark has put together an incredible season for the Rochester Americans this season. Tied for the AHL lead with 17 wins and ranking fourth with a .928 save percentage, he was selected for his second consecutive AHL All-Star Game.
"We feel that he's earned the start up here," Sabres coach Phil Housley said. "He's had a terrific season down in Rochester being an AHL All-Star and we're looking for a spark."
On Wednesday, Housley said that Ullmark's recall was precautionary in case Robin Lehner could not play. Lehner was hit in the neck with a shot in Philadelphia on Sunday but started Tuesday's game, albeit he was pulled early in the second period.
Still, Housley said there was "no real concern" about Lehner's health. "Just at this point in the season, we're just trying to find a spark to our team and hopefully he can provide that for us tonight," Housley said.
3. Zach Bogosian is out. There is concern for Zach Bogosian as the defenseman will be out 4-6 weeks with an ankle injury he suffered during practice on Wednesday. Bogosian missed the first two months of the season with a lower-body injury.
"It's a tough blow for him, too," Housley said. "He's been fighting through injuries this year. It's difficult but it's how the business goes, how the game goes. It's unfortunate but it's giving other players an opportunity."
The opportunity tonight goes to Falk, who will be back in the lineup after being a healthy scratch the last three games. It also creates an opportunity for Brendan Guhle.
Guhle, in his first pro season, was originally recalled so the Sabres could get a look at the defenseman in an NHL setting. His stay may now be extended.
"Well we're going to look at him again tonight so he's going to get another shot in the lineup," Housley said. "I liked the way he played last game just using his speed and mobility."
4. Columbus has the worst power play in the NHL. For real. It's worse than Buffalo's. Columbus is converting on just 12.3 percent of its power-play opportunities with 16 goals this season, ranking 31st in the league. The Sabres are 30th, clicking at just 12.9 percent with 17 goals.
The Blue Jackets aren't setting the world on fire with their overall offense, either. Columbus is averaging 2.6 goals per game while the Sabres are at 2.2 per game.
5. Columbus excels after regulation. The key to success against Columbus is to win in regulation. The Blue Jackets are coming off a 3-2 overtime win against Toronto on Monday. In that game, Columbus became the first team this season to win a game after trailing by two goals in the final five minutes of regulation.
The Blue Jackets are the best team in the NHL after regulation going 11-0-3 in games that were decided in overtime or a shootout. They are one of two teams (along with the Vegas Golden Knights) yet to lose a game in overtime.