Without Jack Eichel and maybe without Sam Reinhart, the Buffalo Sabres host the New Jersey Devils Tuesday night in KeyBank Center.
The Sabres are 2-5-1 in their last eight games and just 5-8-4 since their 10-game winning streak ended on Nov. 29. And now Eichel's upper-body injury and Reinhart's illness has them in danger of playing a game without two of their top three scorers.
"Your mindset can't change no matter who is in your lineup," winger Kyle Okposo said today. "You're trying to win a game and to do that, we need to get more consistency back. Play a good game, play a bad game, a couple good games here or there. I don't like the way it's gone the last month or so. We're not playing bad entire games. It's a period here or there and that shows we can clean it up."
Here are Five Things to Know about tonight's game:
1. Jack isn't back but Sam is close to saying I am (ready): Eichel took the morning skate but wasn't on a line and will sit out his third straight game tonight. Coach Phil Housley said the Sabres are taking a cautious approach, and it would seem the goal for Eichel is Friday night's game in Carolina.
Reinhart said he feels better and Housley said the winger is a game-time decision. Reinhart also skated this morning and was not on a line but did do some power-play work. Zemgus Girgensons (upper body) is going to play after missing four games. Nathan Beaulieu and Matt Hunwick will be healthy scratches.
Defensive pairings different from Boston, too:
— Lance Lysowski (@LLysowski) January 8, 2019
2. Bedeviled by New Jersey: Much like the Florida Panthers, this is another opponent that has given the Sabres major trouble in recent seasons. The Sabres are just 2-8-2 against the Devils in their last 12 meetings – and 0-5-1 in the last six at home. The last Buffalo win in KeyBank Center was a 3-2 shootout decision on April 1, 2014. New Jersey has scored 18 goals in the last five games against the Sabres.
This is the Devils' only trip to Buffalo this season; the Sabres play at the Prudential Center in Newark on Feb. 17 and March 25. New Jersey is playing without two major cogs in reigning Hart Trophy winner Taylor Hall (lower body) and Marcus Johansson (upper body)
3. In the nets: Carter Hutton returns as the starter for Buffalo after Linus Ullmark split the last two games. It will be Hutton's first start of the New Year after a difficult December that saw him go 1-5-2/2.61/.917. In November, Hutton was 8-3-0/2.38/.923. The Devils are going with starter Keith Kinkaid, who is 13-11-6/3.00/.900 in 31 games.
4. Devils connections: Former Sabres winger Drew Stafford, now 33, played his 800th career game Friday at Arizona. Now playing on the fourth line, Stafford has two goals and three assists in 17 games. Stafford returned for his second season in New Jersey after signing a one-year tryout agreement in the fall for $810,000. He had 145 goals and 322 points in 563 games with the Sabres from 2006-2015, when he was sent to Winnipeg in the Evander Kane trade. Another former Sabres winger, Mike Grier, is in his first year as a New Jersey assistant coach.
5. By the numbers: Sabres winger Jeff Skinner enters tonight's game with 28 goals, two behind Washington's Alex Ovechkin for the NHL lead. The Caps host Philadelphia tonight. Kyle Palmeri leads the Devils in goals (20) and points (36). ... The Devils have very little comeback ability, as they are 1-12-2 when trailing after one period and 2-15-2 when trailing after two. New Jersey is also 2-7 in overtime (1-5 in game-winning goals). ... But New Jersey locks things down with the lead after two – 13-0-3 this season and 87-0-14 since the start of the 2015-16 season. ... Both teams are strong on penalty kill, with New Jersey second in the league at 85.2 percent and Buffalo fifth at 83.6.
Spying a familiar name on that fourth line. https://t.co/tJS6aq0VU2
— Mike Harrington (@ByMHarrington) January 8, 2019