For the first time since 2001, there's a new visitor in town today as the Vegas Golden Knights are at KeyBank Center for the first time, meeting the Sabres in a 1 p.m. matinee. The game will be televised on MSG.
The Sabres have alternated wins and losses for five straight games and are coming off Thursday's shootout victory in Ottawa. Here are Five Things to Know about today's game:
The Sabres are starting Robin Lehner in goal after he got his first shootout victory as a Sabre in the game against the Senators. Justin Bailey is up from Rochester to replace Kyle Okposo, who is out indefinitely with a concussion. Justin Falk and Victor Antipin will be scratches on defense. Nathan Beaulieu, who was a healthy scratch for the first time this season on Thursday, will replace Falk in the lineup today.
Marc-Andre Fleury (23-9-3, 2.19/.928) gets the start in goal for Vegas. The Golden Knights will be without forward Reilly Smith, who didn't practice Friday after sitting out Thursday's win in Detroit with an upper-body injury suffered Tuesday in Columbus. Smith is tied for second on the team with 60 points. He was the NHL's Third Star for February.
The Sabres are 13-4-0 in their history in the first home game against teams that joined the NHL in post-1970 expansion but it's been more than 17 years since they played one. The last such game was a 2-1 loss to Columbus on Jan. 23, 2001. The Sabres played the Knights Oct. 17 in T-Mobile Arena and suffered a 5-4 overtime loss in a game that saw them overcome a 4-1 deficit in the final 11 minutes of the third period.
Sweet Golden Knights
For a first-year team, the numbers are astonishing: Vegas enters the game at 43-19-5 with an 10-point lead over San Jose in the Pacific Division, is second in the Western Conference and fourth overall in the NHL standings.
The Golden Knights are 19-12-3 on the road and a win today would break the NHL record for victories away from home by a first year club set by Anaheim in 1993. Vegas is 2-1 on a five-game road trip that came after a three-game losing streak.
"They had early success, which created confidence for them," said Buffalo coach Phil Housley. " ... I didn't know if it was going to last but obviously it has. They're no. 1 in the Pacific. There's a lot of guys over there that had a chip on their shoulder. They're going to be ready to play and you see it in their record. Good for them. It's good for the league and it will be interesting to see down the stretch how they're playing."
When GM Jason Botterill spoke after the trade deadline, he mentioned how disappointed he was at the Sabres' poor performances in Kids Day losses to Dallas (7-1) and Los Angeles (4-2). This will be another showcase for the youngsters today and recent history shows they may not like what they see as the Sabres are 0-6-1 in matinees this season.
"You have to be ready against this team," Housley said. "They have 19 road wins and are playing pretty good hockey right now. They use their speed. They're a quick-strike transition team and we're going to have to manage the puck through the neutral zone. When we're at our best, we're getting pucks deep, on the forecheck and physical. Our record in afternoon games isn't what we want it to be so this is a good opportunity to turn it around."
The Golden Knights are 17-12 in one-goal games (17-7-5) while the Sabres are 10-21 (10-10-11). ... The Golden Knights are 9-5 in overtime while Buffalo is 6-11 ... Vegas is 28-5-1 when scoring first and 26-2-2 when leading after two periods. ... The Sabres are 6-6-2 against the Pacific Division while Vegas is 9-4-2 against the Atlantic. ... Vegas by month: 8-3-0 in October, 7-5-1 in November, 11-1-1 in December, 7-3-2 in January, 8-5-1 in February, 2-2-0 in March.