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Five Things to Know as Mittelstadt, Sabres host Red Wings

It's just Game 77 of 82 for the Sabres. For Buffalo, it's Casey Mittelstadt day.

Here are Five Things to Know as the Sabres host the Detroit Red Wings at 7 p.m. Thursday in KeyBank Center.

1. The debut is here

The whirlwind hits its next step for Mittelstadt. The first-round pick will make his NHL debut, continuing a nine-month tour in which he was drafted eighth overall, played his freshman season at the University of Minnesota, starred for the United States at the World Juniors and signed an NHL contract.

The 19-year-old center has been thinking about this moment.

"At World Juniors, it crosses your mind simply because it's in Buffalo," Mittelstadt said. "You can see yourself playing in this rink, in this setting in the future. I don't know if I had a specific schedule or time frame at the time.

"When the time came and I had some time to sit down and think and talk with my family about things, I think this was the right decision for me."

The Sabres' forward lines at the morning skate:

Zemgus Girgensons-Jack Eichel-Jason Pominville
Scott Wilson-Ryan O'Reilly-Kyle Okposo
Evan Rodrigues-Casey Mittelstadt-Sam Reinhart
Jordan Nolan-Johan Larsson-Nick Baptiste

Benoit Pouliot will be the healthy scratch. Injured Kyle Crisculo (upper body) skated.

Mittelstadt feels like he belongs as he prepares for his first game as a Sabre

2. There's interest

Sabres tickets have been infamously cheap this season, going for the minimum of $6 on StubHub.com or free to friends and family (if they want to take them). The Sabres' final two home games are going for more.

As of 1 p.m., the cheapest ticket for Thursday's game on StubHub was around $30 in the 300 Level. The most inexpensive ticket in the 100 Level was $48.89 to see Mittelstadt.

"There's no pressure on him," coach Phil Housley said. "We just want him to be a part of our group and just play his game and the simplicity of it. That's manage his shift lengths and just get comfortable."

Tickets for the home finale Wednesday against Ottawa are also well above the season average. They started at $30. All attendees next week will receive a Dominik Hasek bobblehead.

How do you sell Sabres tickets that no one wants? You don't.

3. More power to him

Mittelstadt will have power-play time to get comfortable. He patrolled the top of the second unit with Marco Scandella, while Pominville, Rodrigues and Baptiste skated down low. The first unit featured O'Reilly, Reinhart and Okposo with Eichel and Rasmus Ristolainen up top.

"I've been on both flanks pretty much my whole life," Mittelstadt said, "so either one is completely fine with me."

After eating with Eichel, Sabres' Mittelstadt eager to feast on life in NHL

4. Looking to rebound

The Sabres will start goaltender Robin Lehner. He was pulled from his last start after giving up four goals on four straight shots Saturday in New York. He finished with eight saves on 12 shots in 28:45 in the 5-1 loss to the Rangers.

Lehner has been pulled from five of his last 21 starts, though inattention to detail by the Sabres' skaters has certainly contributed.

Lehner is 14-26-9 with a .909 save percentage this season. During his Sabres career, he has appeared in 50 Atlantic Division games and has a .926 save percentage and 2.46 goals-against average.

5. This and that

Buffalo is on a 5-1-1 run against Detroit, including 2-0-1 at home. The Sabres have a chance to win three straight home games against the Red Wings for the first time since Dec. 28, 1988, to Jan. 16, 1991, when Detroit was in the Clarence Campbell (Western) Conference. … The Sabres are 8-3-1 in the last 12 games against the Atlantic Division, including Monday's 3-2 victory over Toronto. … Left wing Benoit Pouliot and defensemen Josh Gorges and Victor Antipin will be the Sabres' healthy scratches. … Former Sabres defenseman Doug Houda is an assistant coach for Detroit.

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