Carter Hutton is back in the net today for the Buffalo Sabres against his old team and against the starter he backed up for the last two years in Jake Allen of the St. Louis Blues.
The teams meet in a 5 p.m. faceoff in KeyBank Center (MSG, WGR Radio). The Sabres are looking to snap a seven-game losing streak, while the Blues are 5-5-2 since their 11-game winning streak ended but coming off a strong performance in Saturday's 5-1 win at Pittsburgh. It helped erase some of the sting from losses earlier in the week to Arizona (3-1) and Ottawa (2-0).
The game also marks the return of former Buffalo center Ryan O'Reilly, who scored a goal against the Sabres in the 4-1 Blues win Dec. 27 in Enterprise Center.
"It's always weird playing against your old teammates, but I'm excited for it," O'Reilly said today in a brief pregame chat with Buffalo reporters. "We got goals early against Pitt, got some confidence and played a pretty consistent game. It was a good lesson for us. We have to stick to our staples of playing heavy and establishing our game right away."
Housley said former Blues center Vladimir Sobotka will return to the lineup and Jason Pominville will be a healthy scratch. Marco Scandella is in on defense while Matt Hunwick will be a scratch. Pominville (15-13-28) has no points in the last five games and just one goal in his last 10.
"It's just where we're at as a group," Housley said. "We haven't gotten results. There's gonna be players moving out until we find that chemistry. ... I know he wants to make a difference. He's always doing the right things. He approaches the game the right way and is always about the team so it was very difficult today."
The Sabres are 1-10-2 in their last 13 games against St. Louis, including the December defeat that was their third straight to the Blues. The only win in that stretch was a 3-2 triumph here on Feb. 18, 2017, that snapped a nine-game losing streak.
Allen is 18-17-6, 2.85/.904 and has lost his job to red-hot rookie Jordan Binnington (17-4-1, 1.77/.931). Allen is 1-2-2 in his last five starts, but St. Louis has scored only five goals in the four losses.
The Sabres broke their shutout string at 199 minutes, 58 seconds Saturday night in Carolina, avoiding a fourth straight shutout in a 4-2 defeat but getting sunk largely by bad goals allowed by Linus Ullmark. They outshot the Hurricanes, 37-29.
"It certainly was a relief," Housley said of ending the streak. "I really liked the way we started and taking a look at the game after the fact I really liked the way we played. We had a lot of quality opportunities. I thought our structure was really good and we didn't allow them too much offensively. We just didn't cash in on our opportunities, and that's where we're at right now."