Say this for the Buffalo Sabres: They can relax a little tonight when the Edmonton Oilers are in KeyBank Center. After all, they're not continuing their futile quest for a two-game winning streak.
The Sabres are coming off Saturday's 5-2 loss in Toronto that dropped them to 0-10-1 in their last 11 games after a win. They're meeting an Edmonton team that's 4-1-1 in its last six, including Saturday's 4-0 shutout in Columbus.
"The hardest thing to trust is your work and your checking," Edmonton coach Ken Hitchcock said today. "... We're starting to believe that if we can check, we can control the hockey game and not just try to do it with our skill."
Faceoff is shortly after 7 on MSG and WGR Radio. If you're outside the Buffalo area, the game will be televised on NHL Network. For the record, the Sabres are nine points out of a playoff spot and Edmonton is seven. Which means they're both pretty much toast barring some wild winning streak in the last 17 games.
Here are Five Things to Know about tonight's game:
1. The lineup: The Sabres announced Jake McCabe is out for 5-6 weeks -- essentially the rest of the season -- with an upper-body injury, so they are down to seven defensemen. Casey Nelson will sit.
#Sabres lines/pairings at the morning skate
— Lance Lysowski (@LLysowski) March 4, 2019
2. In the nets: Linus Ullmark (14-9-4, 3.06/.909) is getting his third straight start and it's another statement by Housley because Hutton is now healthy and has been serving as a backup. Neither goaltender was very good in February, with Ullmark at 3-3-1, 3.60/.889 and Hutton 1-4-1, 3.09/.906. Ullmark stopped 41 of 44 shots in Friday's overtime win over Pittsburgh and 27 of 31 Saturday in Toronto. The Oilers will go with starter Mikko Koskinen (18-15-4, 2.76/.911), who has stopped 67 of 69 shots in his last two starts and is coming off a 30-save shutout Saturday in Columbus.
3. McDavid Magic: Edmonton's Connor McDavid enters this game third in the NHL in scoring at 90 points and with points in 13 of the last 14 games he's played (missed one due to illness, two due to suspension). He had three assists in the Columbus game.
"That was probably one of our better games of the season for sure," McDavid said today. "We were solid all over the ice. We didn't give up too much and anything we did, Mikko was there. Offensively, we created chances. It was a pretty good game all around and we're hoping to carry it into tonight."
4. Oil spills: Leon Draisaitl's 40th goal of the season came Saturday in Columbus and has him tied with Chicago's Patrick Kane for second in the league behind Washington's Alex Ovechkin (45). Draisaitl joined an elite list of Oilers to get 40 goals in 60 games that includes Wayne Gretzky, Jari Kurri, Mark Messier, Glenn Anderson and Jimmy Carson. McDavid's three-point game Saturday allowed him to join Messier (1987-90) and Kurri (1983-90) as the most recent Oilers with at least three straight 90-point seasons.
"When you put those two together on one line, they're very dynamic," Sabres coach Phil Housley said of McDavid and Draisaitl. "They drive their engine over there and we're going to have to be aware of when they're on the ice. We're going to have to manage the puck well because they bring a speed element of no other in the NHL."
5. By the numbers: The Sabres have given up 55 shots on goal in the first period the last three games. ... Both teams struggle in second periods, with the Sabres running a minus-16 goal differential and Edmonton at minus-15. The Sabres are 10-4-1 against the Pacific Division this year, including 6-0-1 at home. ... Jeff Skinner's goal drought is now at eight games but it's not like he's not getting scoring chances. Skinner has 21 shots on goal in the last four games, including seven Saturday in Toronto.