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Blackhawks at Sabres: Five Things to Know

Jack is back. Emily is visiting. So is Patrick.

There's a lot going on today as the Sabres and Chicago Blackhawks meet in a 1 p.m. matinee in KeyBank Center that will be televised on MSG. Here are Five Things to Know about today's game:

1. Jack is back 

After missing 15 games, Jack Eichel makes his return to the lineup today. He has 22 goals, 31 assists and 53 points in  55 games this season. For his career against Chicago, Eichel has just one goal, four points and a minus-7 rating in five games. Today will be Eichel's 198th career game, meaning he's on track to play No. 200 Wednesday against Arizona.

Eichel returns to Sabres lineup today

2. Golden Girl in the house

Getzville native and USA Olympic defenseman Emily Pfalzer will be in the house, gold medal in tow. She'll drop the ceremonial faceoff -- likely between Eichel and Kane -- and will also sign autographs and take the adulation of the fans next door when she heads to the Beauts' NWHL playoff game in HarborCenter.

"I'm excited," Sabres coach Phil Housley said today. "It gives me chills the way those women played in the Olympics and representing all of us here back home. It will be a great situation today with the opening draw. It was exciting to see them and now they're on their tour sharing their experiences. It will be exciting."

Sabres Notebook: Buffalo set to honor Pfalzer; O'Reilly quick on draw

3. South Buffalo boy in the house

Patrick Kane makes his annual visit and is once again leading the Hawks in goals, assists and points (25-42-67). But much like his team, Kane's play has tailed off of late with just four goals in the last 18 games and only five in the last 25 games. In 14 career games against the Sabres, Kane has eight goals and seven assists.

4. No success vs. Hawks

The Sabres have lost 12 straight games against Chicago, going 0-9-3 since posting a 2-1 win here on Dec. 11, 2009. Since then, of course, the Hawks have won Stanley Cups in 2010, 2013 and 2015. The Sabres are 0-4-1 in the last five meetings at home. Chicago posted a 3-2 overtime victory over Buffalo on Dec. 8 in United Center, winning on Gustav Forsling's goal with five seconds left in OT.

The Hawks are toast for the playoffs for the first time since 2008, mired in last place in the Central Division. They have given up 19 goals in losing their last three road games and are just 3-6 in their last nine games overall -- and 6-14-1 in their last 21.

"They're a deadly transitional team," Housley said. "We have to know even in the offensive zone that any possession change they're going to try to stretch the ice on us. Our D has to keep everybody in front of them and they're a great rush team."

Blackhawks arrive in Buffalo with no playoffs in sight

5. Other lineup news

The goaltending matchup will be Chad Johnson (7-11-3, 3.28/.896) vs. J.F. Berube (2-3-0, 3.48/.904). ... Sabres center Jacob Josefson is now week to week with a lower body injury and defenseman Casey Nelson will miss today's game with a lingering lower-body ailment. Housley said Nelson should return Monday against Nashville. Justin Falk will take his place today ... Sam Reinhart has 26 points (11-15-26) in his last 26 games.

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