ST. LOUIS – The NHL's holiday break is over and the Buffalo Sabres are one of 26 teams in action Thursday night, traveling to Enterprise Center to meet the St. Louis Blues.
Faceoff is at 8 p.m. Eastern on MSG and WGR Radio. The Sabres are coming off Saturday's 3-0 win over Anaheim that snapped a two-game losing streak. Buffalo is 4-5-3 since its 10-game winning streak ended and sits in third place in the Atlantic Division, five points behind Toronto and three points ahead of Boston.
The Sabres (21-11-5) are sixth in the NHL's overall standing (tied with Calgary but behind on tiebreakers) while the Blues are 28th at 14-16-4.
Here are Five Things to Know about tonight's game:
1. The lineups: It will be Carter Hutton (13-10-2, 2.58/.917) in goal for the Sabres against the man he backed up for here in Jake Allen (12-10-4, 3.09/.900). Jason Pominville did not make the trip, with coach Phil Housley saying the winger remains day to day and simply didn't come with no practice time before this game.
Remi Elie gets a push up the ladder in his third straight game, joining Casey Mittelstadt and Kyle Okposo on the second line. Nathan Beaulieu and Matt Hunwick took the morning skate and will sit as extra defensemen.
#Sabres morning skate:
— Mike Harrington (@ByMHarrington) December 27, 2018
extras: Fabbri, Sanford
extras: Pietrangelo, Gunnarsson, Schmaltz
— Lou Korac (@lkorac10) December 27, 2018
2. A quick trip: The players' CBA prohibits games or travel from Dec. 24-26, so the Sabres had to fly to the Midwest this morning and head right to the rink for the morning skate. It's how teams operate in preseason. Buffalo's trip here was the second-longest in the NHL today, behind only Philadelphia's flight to Tampa Bay, and will mean a late night flight home before Friday's practice and prep for Saturday's showdown with Boston in KeyBank Center.
"It's a big challenge for us, not what our usual routine is," said Sabres center Jack Eichel. "But at the end of the day, it's just playing another game. You try to take care of yourself as much as you can, get yourself as prepared as you can. We know it's not going to be as crisp and clean as it usually is. It's all about our work and compete. If we're battling, we give ourselves a chance to win."
3. The Blues are trending in the right direction: Despite sitting in 13th place in the West, St. Louis is 4-2 in its last six games and posted wins at Edmonton and Calgary on its most recent road trip. The Blues' last game was Saturday's 3-1 win over the Flames, a big turnaround from a 7-2 home loss to Calgary six days earlier.
"We played the right way throughout it," Blues center Ryan O'Reilly said today. "We didn't give them much. We played the top, key guys physical, making it tough on them. And that's the staple for us."
4. Feeling blue vs. St. Louis: The Sabres are 11-4-1 against the Western Conference this season but beating St. Louis has long proven to be a daunting task. Buffalo is just 1-9-2 against the Blues in the last 12 meetings and 0-4-2 in this building since a 5-3 win on Dec. 27, 2009. The Sabres have just nine goals in those six games.
5. By the numbers: The Sabres have improved to fifth in the NHL on the penalty kill at 83.6 percent. Over the last nine games, they are a sensational 26 of 27. The St. Louis power play, meanwhile, is tied for 16th in the NHL at 19.7 percent. ... The Sabres lead the NHL in overtime wins and games, going 8-5 past 60 minutes. The Blues are just 2-4. ... Rasmus Dahlin leads NHL rookie defensemen with 20 points, the fourth-fastest blueline to 20 points by age 18, trailing only current Sabres coach Phil Housley, Ray Bourque and Aaron Ekblad. ... St. Louis is one of three teams (joining Florida and Montreal) that Jack Eichel has not scored a goal against in his career.