DETROIT – The Sabres are already looking to next year. The Red Wings are really close to that point.
Here are Five Things to Know as Buffalo visits Detroit at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in Little Caesars Arena.
1. Not a marquee matchup
Buffalo is 0-2-1 in its last three games to drop to 17-32-11 overall. Detroit is 1-3 in its last four, sliding to 24-26-9.
While the Sabres are just one point ahead of last-place Arizona with a game in hand, the Red Wings still have slim playoff hopes. They're eight points out of the final wild-card spot, but they have four teams ahead of them.
"We believe we still have lots of life in us, but we've got to go out and play that way," Detroit coach Jeff Blashill said after the morning skate. "We've played some good teams. Buffalo is a good team. I don't care what their record is.
"There are no teams anymore in this league that aren't really good hockey teams. Some just don't have good records."
2. Lehner is back
Robin Lehner was scratched from the Sabres' last game due to a hip injury, but he'll start against the Red Wings.
Since joining the Sabres prior to the 2015-16 season, Lehner is 3-2-1 against Detroit with a .953 save percentage and 1.65 goals-against average.
Sabres coach Phil Housley is continuing his defense rotation. Victor Antipin will replace Justin Falk and skate with Josh Gorges.
"We've lost the last couple games here, so we're just going to continue to make changes and give guys opportunities," Housley said.
The other pairs – Nathan Beaulieu-Rasmus Ristolainen and Marco Scandella-Casey Nelson – will remain the same.
Jordan Nolan will be the healthy scratch at forward.
Nolan is extra pic.twitter.com/qpyocJoFN7
— John Vogl (@BuffNewsVogl) February 22, 2018
4. Stick with the plan
The Sabres have obvious trade candidates, led by forwards Evander Kane and Benoit Pouliot. As Monday's NHL trade deadline approaches, Housley said he and General Manager Jason Botterill will not sit an asset to keep him healthy (at least not at the moment).
"In our conversations with Jason, he's going to do what's best for this organization," Housley said. "If we get to that point, he'll let me know. But for right now the thing that we can control is to try and win a hockey game against Detroit."
5. This and that
It's the 11-year anniversary of the Sabres-Senators brawl. … It's the seven-year anniversary of Terry Pegula announcing his purchase of the Sabres. … Sabres center Ryan O'Reilly has nine goals and 19 points in the last 19 games. … Sabres right wing Sam Reinhart has six goals and 17 points in his last 16 games. … Buffalo has points in five straight road games. A win or overtime loss would give the team points in six straight for the first time since March 2011.