TORONTO – When the Buffalo Sabres' dressing room in Scotiabank Arena was nearly empty Monday morning, forward Evan Rodrigues asked a few reporters for the latest trade updates from around the NHL.
While players are intrigued by the trade deadline, none particularly care for the day. They didn't want to lose a teammate, though the Sabres benefitted by acquiring defenseman Brandon Montour from Anaheim Sunday night.
There is also a rivalry game to play. The Sabres (29-24-8) will face the Maple Leafs (37-20-4) at 7 p.m., and neither coach would confirm their lineup.
Both teams have no choice but to focus on an important Atlantic Division game.
"This day is never easy for anybody, for players," Sabres winger Kyle Okposo said following the morning skate. "It’s something that as I kinda go down this road, this is my 11th year, I’ve seen a lot of friends go and you realize, ‘Hey, it is a business.’ ... It’s a tough day. It’s also an exciting day and you have to just play. Play with the team you have and management’s going to do what they feel is in the best interest of the team."
Here are Five Things to Know about tonight's game:
1. Late arrival: Montour, who was acquired from Anaheim for Brendan Guhle and a first-round draft pick, will not play against the Leafs but will be in the lineup Tuesday in Philadelphia. He is expected to speak to reporters upon arriving in Toronto.
Coach Phil Housley declined to say if Montour could possibly be paired with Rasmus Dahlin but expressed excitement over the addition, calling Montour a "good fit." Players echoed that sentiment.
"I think it shows [management believes] in this group," Rodrigues said. "I think we have a big belief in here and obviously adding someone like that is going to make us more dynamic, especially offensively. He’s a good puck-moving defenseman."
2. Lineup: The Sabres traded defenseman Nathan Beaulieu to Winnipeg shortly before the deadline, though the move was not announced until almost 4 p.m. That clears the way for Casey Nelson to play for the first time since Dec. 4.
Housley declined to confirm his forward lines or defensive pairings following the morning skate but did tell reporters Okposo would be back in the lineup against Toronto. Okposo, who will need to be activated from injured reserve, has missed the past four games because of a concussion sustained during a fight against the New York Rangers' Anthony DeAngelo on Feb. 15.
Okposo began skating on his own Thursday but has not practiced with the team since the injury. He skated on the third line with Tage Thompson and Vladimir Sobotka during the morning skate. Nelson will likely skate alongside Matt Hunwick since Marco Scandella is still on injured reserve:
— Lance Lysowski (@LLysowski) February 25, 2019
Additionally, Casey Mittelstadt (illness) skated but did not participate in line rushes and the same with winger Danny O'Regan.
3: Hutton's net: Carter Hutton will start against Toronto – the first time he's played three consecutive games since Dec. 27-31. He has stopped 70 of 73 shots over the past two games, including a 5-2 win over Washington.
4: Rivalry: The Leafs will enter the game third in the Atlantic Division, 20 points behind first-place Tampa Bay and three behind Boston, and have lost three of their last four games. They beat the Sabres in overtime, 4-3, behind Auston Matthews' overtime goal on Dec. 4.
Toronto has three players with 21 or more goals -- Mitch Marner (21), John Tavares (34) and Matthews (29) -- and rank fourth in the NHL in goals scored. Nazem Kadri, who has 15 goals among 35 points, will be out of the lineup against Buffalo because of a concussion.
Still, the Leafs are dynamic offensively and their transition game gave the Sabres fits during their last meeting.
“They’re very powerful up front," Housley said. "They’ve got a lot of skill and speed and they play a fast game. The last two games we played, I think we had urgency and desperation in our game. I think we really managed the puck well against these teams that like to transition well. That’s going to be important tonight.”
5. By the Numbers: The Maple Leafs have a 47-40-17 all-time series lead in games played in Toronto, while the Sabres are 64-31-12 in 107 games played in Buffalo. ... Toronto ranks 10th in the NHL on the power play and penalty kill. ... Jack Eichel has 13 points in 10 career games against the Maple Leafs, and Sam Reinhart has 13 points in his last 13 games against them. ... Rasmus Dahlin's three game-winning goals this season are the most ever recorded by a Sabres rookie defenseman. His total also ties for ninth-most by any Sabres rookie and eighth-most in a season by any defenseman in franchise history.