After a two-week absence, the Buffalo Sabres are back in KeyBank Center Thursday night for a 7 p.m. game against the surprising Montreal Canadiens. The game will be broadcast on MSG and WGR Radio.
The Canadiens, picked by virtually every observer to finish near the bottom of the Atlantic Division, are off to a 5-1-2 start and are 4-0-1 in their last five games. The Sabres, of course, are coming off their two straight wins in Southern California and enter the game 5-4.
This opens a seven-game stretch where the Sabres play four games against Atlantic foes.
Here are Five Things to Know about tonight's game:
A winning lineup: After back-to-back strong performances in Los Angeles and Anaheim, the Sabres aren't going to change a winning lineup. Carter Hutton will be in goal tonight against Canadiens backup Antti Niemi, who will give starter Carey Price a rest. The rest of the Sabres' lineup is status quo.
Lines at the Sabres morning skate:
Jeff Skinner-Jack Eichel-Jason Pominville
Evan Rodrigues-Casey Mittelstadt-Kyle Okposo
Conor Sheary-Vladimir Sobotka-Sam Reinhart
Patrik Berglund-Johan Larsson-Zemgus Girgensons
Also skating: Remi Elie, Tage Thompson
— Rachel Lenzi (@rachelmlenzi) October 24, 2018
2. Ten-game mark: Buffalo is 5-4 and over .500 at the latest point in the season since February 2012. A win or overtime loss tonight would give the Sabres their best start through 10 games since they began the 2011-12 season 6-4.
3. No rest for defense: After not getting a single goal from a defenseman last year until the first week of December, the Sabres have gotten goals from all but one of their seven blueliners this year. Casey Nelson is the only one shut out to date.
Tonight's pairs will be the same as finished the road trip: Jake McCabe-Rasmus Ristolainen, Zach Bogosian-Marco Scandella, Rasmus Dahlin-Casey Nelson. Nathan Beaulieu is the scratch.
What's behind the offense?
"Keeping it simple," coach Phil Housley said Thursday. "We learned some valuable lessons when we turned the puck over in the neutral zone and how much energy we had to spend playing defense. I think the guys have really bought in to making the right decisions. There's going to be plays to be made but we're going to have to make the smart plays. Our transition game has been a lot better and that's where everybody wants to play – going North and being in the offensive zone."
4. Hot Hab: Jonathan Drouin has a five-game point streak going for Montreal, during which he has all seven of his points on the season (three goals, four assists). He had five points in four games against Buffalo last year, all of them being assist.
5. Not working overtime: The Sabres are one of four teams yet to play an overtime game this season – joining Nashville, New Jersey and Dallas – and have gone 22 straight without extending past 60 minutes dating to last season. If tonight's game ends in regulation, it will be the Sabres' longest run of not being tied after 60 minutes since they played 30 in a row from Nov. 10, 1979, to Jan. 16, 1980.