NEWARK, N.J. – The Buffalo Sabres have returned to the scene of one of their most disappointing losses of the season. They were still competing for a playoff spot back on Feb. 17, when they lost to the lowly New Jersey Devils, 4-1, in Prudential Center.
That was the second loss in what turned into an epic collapse. The Sabres (31-34-9) have lost 15 of their last 18 games, including eight of their last 10, and will try for their first road win since January when they play the Devils (28-39-9) tonight in Prudential Center. Opening faceoff is at 7:08 p.m.
Instead of competing for a playoff spot, the Sabres will try to avoid improving their odds at the NHL Draft Lottery.
"We’ve got to win some games," Kyle Okposo lamented following practice Sunday. "There’s always something you can play for. The thing you play for the whole season is to get to the playoffs. That’s not there, but there’s always something to play for. You’re in the National Hockey League. If you think there’s nothing to play for you shouldn’t be in the league. You play for pride, your teammates, you play for yourself, your family."
Here are Five Things to Know about tonight's game:
1. Ugly trends: The Sabres are just 11-21-5 when playing away from KeyBank Center and have lost 11 straight, going 0-9-2 since their 5-4 win in Columbus on Jan. 29. Only two NHL teams have performed worse on the road: Ottawa and New Jersey.
They have also allowed 93 second-period goals this season, which ranks 29th in the league, and their minus-29 differential in the period ranks 30th. They have not won back-to-back games since Dec. 13, and one goal against tends to snowball.
Their poor puck management is at the root of both trends. The Sabres commit too many turnovers in their own zone and aren't difficult enough to play against.
"We watched some clips today of guys in front of me and battling in front of the net," Carter Hutton said. "You look at their goalie and we kind of let guys off the hook. That’s something we have to be harder with."
2. Pilut lands: Defenseman Lawrence Pilut, recalled from Rochester Sunday afternoon, will be in the lineup tonight against the Devils. Zach Bogosian (lower body) and Matt Hunwick (upper body) remain day-to-day.
While Hunwick has sat the past three games, Bogosian played Saturday night in Montreal and was expected to be available against the Devils.
Linus Ullmark (14-12-4, 3.13, .906) will start for the Sabres, while Cory Schneider (5-12-3, 3.18, .898) is expected to be in goal for the Devils.
3. Mittelstadt sitting?: Sabres rookie center Casey Mittelstadt will be a healthy scratch for the first time this season after he filled in as a defenseman during Sunday's practice.
#Sabres lines during practice in Newark:
— Lance Lysowski (@LLysowski) March 24, 2019
Mittelstadt, 20, has 11 goals with 12 assists and a minus-15 rating in 70 games this season.
"I think Casey’s given us some really good games and sometimes in a player’s development it’s not a bad thing to take a step back," Housley said Sunday. "You look at our games, we’re giving up way too much right now, and it’s not what you make. It’s what you leave on the table. Right now we’re leaving way too much. In Casey’s defense, it might be a good thing to just take a deep breath. He’s played a lot of hockey up to this point, so we’ll make that decision tomorrow."
4. Sabres vs. Devils: This is the third and final game of the season between the two teams, and they split the first two games. On Feb. 17, Schneider stopped 34 out of 35 shots faced. The Sabres won the first game, 5-1, with goals from Jeff Skinner, C.J. Smith, Mittelstadt, Jake McCabe and Pilut in KeyBank Center. Hutton started both games against New Jersey.
The Sabres are 3-6-1 in their last 10 games against the Devils but hold a 76-54-26 series lead. A victory tonight would give Buffalo its first season-series win over New Jersey since 2013-14.
5. By the Numbers: Alex Nylander and Rasmus Dahlin each enter tonight's game on three-game points streaks. ... This is the Sabres' 15th of 16 sets of back-to-backs this season. They are 7-6-1 in the first game of those. ... With his goal on Saturday at Montreal, Jack Eichel has now scored against each of Buffalo’s 30 opponents. Eichel became the second-youngest player (22 years, 146 days) ever to score against 30 different NHL teams, trailing only Florida's Aleksander Barkov, who did so at 22 years, 139 days with his goal against the Vegas Golden Knights on Jan. 19, 2018. ... The Devils are 34-12-18 in one-goal games and, 50-2-4, when leading after two periods. Since the start of 2015-16 season, the Devils are 94-2-14 when leading after 40 minutes of play