OTTAWA – The word of the day is "putrescent."
That's how The News' John Vogl described the Sabres' 5-1 loss to the Calgary Flames Wednesday night in KeyBank Center. The club has a quick chance to help erase some of the stench Thursday night against the Ottawa Senators in a 7:30 game at Canadian Tire Centre. It will be televised on MSG.
The matchup with the Sens is the tail end of a back-to-back and the third game out of four in a six-day stretch, with the upstart Vegas Golden Knights making their Buffalo debut Saturday afternoon.
Here are Five (odorless) Things to Know about tonight's game:
1. Lineup news
The Sabres did not have a morning skate, and coach Phil Housley announced several lineup changes at his afternoon media briefing. As expected, newly acquired forward Danny O'Regan will make his Buffalo debut and Robin Lehner (13-24-8, 2.96/.910) will start in goal against his former team. Craig Anderson (19-20-5, 3.26/.901) will be in goal for the Senators.
O'Regan will start the game centering Jordan Nolan and Nick Baptiste, and Housley said he's expected to get a chance on the power play as well. O'Regan will replace Seth Griffith, who suffered an upper-body injury against the Flames and did not make the trip.
"We went over clips with him as far as how we want to play and we'll have him just feel his way through," Housley said of O'Regan. "He's got good offensive potential and really good hockey sense. We'd like to see that come out."
On defense, Justin Falk and Josh Gorges will be in the lineup while Nathan Beaulieu and Victor Antipin will be healthy scratches.
2. Falling to the bottom
In a year where they're actually not tanking, the Sabres have again slipped to the bottom of the NHL's overall standing. It happened late Wednesday night when the loss to Calgary was combined with Arizona's 2-1 win at Vancouver. That left both teams with 53 points but the Coyotes – who are 8-2-1 in their last 11 games – slipped ahead of Buffalo on points percentage because they have played one fewer game. Ottawa is 29th with 56 points and has two games in hand on the Sabres.
Buffalo, of course, finished last in the NHL in both 2013-14 and 2014-15 but did not win the draft lottery either year and selected Sam Reinhart and Jack Eichel with back-to-back No. 2 picks. Under new rules put in after the 2015 McEichel tank wars, the top three picks are selected via lottery and the team finishing last could fall as low as fourth in the draft, which is the scenario that befell Colorado last season after the Avs finished with just 48 points.
3. The Sabres have dominated the Senators in recent years
The Sabres have points in 10 straight games against Ottawa (7-0-3) for the first time since the Senators entered the NHL in 1992. They are 1-0-1 this year, posting a 3-2 win Dec. 12 in KeyBank Center and suffering a 3-2 overtime loss here on Feb. 15, a game that saw Ottawa get the tying goal in the final minute and win it on Mike Hoffman's overtime tally. The Sabres have points in six straight games here against the Sens (4-0-2) for the first time.
Lehner has similar success against his old team, going 5-0-3, 1.57/.950
4. The Sabres have been oddly dominant in the Atlantic Division, too
Buffalo is 6-2 this season against Tampa Bay, Boston and Toronto, the division's longtime top three. The Sabres, in fact, are 6-1-1 in their last eight Atlantic games and 9-7-3 against their division this season. That's a far better mark than their record against any of the others. Buffalo is 5-14-4 against the Metropolitan, a pathetic 1-8-2 against the Central and a decent 6-6-2 against the Pacific.
5. Numbers games
The Sabres are 3-2 in their last five games, 7-6-2 in their last 15, and 10-9-2 in their last 21. ... The Senators are coming off a 2-2 road trip that saw them lose at Washington and Arizona – but post wins at Vegas and Dallas, the latter in overtime. ... Buffalo, Ottawa and Detroit are tied for the NHL lead in one-goal losses with 21. The Sabres are 9-10-11 in one-goal games while the Senators are 15-11-10. ... Wednesday's loss to Calgary was the 16th of the season for the Sabres by three goals or more. Vancouver leads the NHL in blowout losses with 18 while Ottawa has 17.