TAMPA – Welcome to the Quest for 11.
It takes place Thursday night in Amalie Arena as the Buffalo Sabres take on the Tampa Bay Lightning, looking to extend their winning streak to heights it has never reached in their history. The game is at 7:30 p.m. on MSG and WGR Radio.
The Sabres have won 10 straight for the third time since they were born in 1970 but will need to beat one of the favorites in the Eastern Conference to get to 11. Still, Buffalo has won three of its last four meetings with the Lightning – after a stretch that saw them go 1-11-1 against Tampa Bay.
Here are Five Things to Know about tonight's game:
1. Lineup news: The injured Conor Sheary and Marco Scandella remain out and the Sabres will make no lineup changes from the group that beat San Jose in overtime Tuesday. The Lightning will get back rugged forward Ondrej Palat, who has missed 16 games with a foot injury. Palat, who has no goals in nine games this year, has averaged 17 goals over the last five seasons.
The current #Sabres AM skate lines:
(Hunwick-Pilut skating extra)
— Mike Harrington (@ByMHarrington) November 29, 2018
2. In the nets: Just like his team, Carter Hutton is streaking too, winning his last eight starts while posting a .936 save percentage and 1.97 goals-against average. Hutton has 12 wins on the season, one shy of NHL leaders Marc-Andre Fleury (Vegas) and Frederik Andersen (Toronto).
"He's just a cool customer and he's such a great teammate," said coach Phil Housley. "He really cares about the team. Even when he's not in the lineup, he's trying to get guys revved up. That says a lot about him and his character. I'm really excited for him. He's really taken ownership of this opportunity that has been given to him. He's provided us some solid goaltending."
With Andrei Vasilevskiy sidelined by a broken foot, the Lightning are again going to Louis Domingue in net. He's 8-4-0, 3.19/.903 and gave up a weak five-hole goal to Kyle Okposo in the teams' first meeting, a 2-1 Sabres win Nov. 13 in KeyBank Center.
3. What's at stake: There have been 25 winning streaks of 11 games or more in NHL history. No NHL team has won at least 11 in a row since Columbus (16) and Minnesota (12) hit that figure during the 2016-17 season; the Wild's streak ended during a head-to-head matchup with the Blue Jackets, who were at 14 at the time.
"We're not playing for a streak. We're playing for another two points and that's where our mindset has to be, not anywhere else," winger Sam Reinhart said after the morning skate. "It hasn't been that difficult to not focus on everything else. We're well aware we haven't done anything yet. But our belief grows and our mindset remains on one day at a time. And tonight, we've got one of the best teams in the league to face."
4. Captain Jack's pregame thoughts: What does Jack Eichel think about the Sabres' 10-game run? Losing is no longer a disease here and winning is a mentality that can develop. Going 7-0 in overtime/shootout decisions during the streak proves that.
"Through a streak like this, you can learn a lot," Eichel said. "For one, I think we've learned we can win every game that we play if we give ourselves a chance and play the right way. That's a pretty big characteristic of a winning team. If they don't play well or have their best game, they still try to find a way to get a point or win a game in extra time and we've done that through this stretch."
5. Numbers and history: The Sabres are 12-0-2 when scoring first this season, 10-0-2 when leading after the first period and 8-0-1 when leading after two. ... With a win or overtime loss tonight, the Sabres would have points in 11 straight games for the first time since Dec. 26 to Jan. 18, 2010 (8-0-3). ... Buffalo is seeking its first six-game road winning streak in the same season since the team won its first 10 road games of the 2006-07 season. ... This is the 100th game all-time between Buffalo and Tampa Bay and the Sabres have a 55-36-8 series record. ... Thursday is the 25th anniversary of Dominik Hasek's first shutout with the Sabres, a 3-0 win over Toronto in Maple Leaf Gardens that saw him stop 24 shots.