It's Game 80, as in three from the end. It's Home Game 40, as in two from the end.
The Buffalo Sabres continue to play out the string Tuesday night in KeyBank Center against the Nashville Predators, and it's really the last time the Sabres can have any impact this year on the playoff race as their last two games are against fellow Eastern Conference lowlights Detroit and Ottawa.
The Sabres-Preds all-time series is one of the most bizarre in the NHL and history doesn't bode well for the Sabres tonight.
The Sabres have beaten Nashville at home just one time since the Preds joined the NHL in 1998, posting a 1-7-4 mark against them (three overtime losses, one tie). They are 0-4-3 since the lone win, an 8-4 victory on Feb. 27, 2008.
But at Nashville's Bridgestone Arena, Buffalo has gone 9-5. The Sabres had a three-game winning streak there snapped with a 2-1 loss on Dec. 3.
Faceoff tonight is shortly after 7 on MSG and WGR Radio. Here are Five Things to Know:
1. What's at stake: The Predators are tied with St. Louis and two points back of Winnipeg in the ultra-tight Central Division. All three teams have three games left. Nashville is 5-2-1 in its last eight games while the Sabres are 1-12-2 in their last 15, haven't won in regulation since Feb. 23 and have skidded to 28th place overall.
2. Ristolainen is back: After missing four games with the flu, defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen will be back in the Buffalo lineup tonight.
"I felt really good today, a lot of energy, fresh mentally, really fresh and excited about tonight," Ristolainen said after today's morning skate. "You can't help the guys from the gym so it's been tough to watch. Hard times, but hard times make tough people."
Ristolainen is having a miserable season, with five goals and an NHL-worst minus-42 rating -- which includes a ghastly minus-22 over his last 14 games. But he said he's pumped to meet a playoff team tonight.
"Nothing to lose obviously," he said. "Everyone has got to play for something, at least give the fans what they earn. Bring some excitement for them and play for each other. Personally I'd rather play against teams who are top in the standings and playing for something. It's a big game for them so it's better to play those games."
3. In the nets: It will be former Predator Carter Hutton (17-24-5, 3.02/.908) against Nashville starter Pekka Rinne (27-19-4, 2.45/.917). Rinne has glossy numbers against the Sabres (5-2, 1.79/.944) and posted a 2-1 win over them Dec. 3 in Nashville.
4. The rest of the lineup: Will Borgen and Zemgus Girgensons will be healthy scratches while Vladimir Sobotka, Marco Scandella, Zach Bogosian and Matt Hunwick are all injured. Hunwick returned to the ice this morning. Coach Phil Housley said Scandella (foot) has been shut down for the season while Bogosian remains day to day.
Rochester has a huge weekend series with Syracuse Friday and Saturday, and Borgen is likely to return to the AHL for that one and to get ready for the playoffs after earning his first four NHL games in Buffalo.
"I've really liked his play," Housley said today. "When you look at his shifts, positionally sound, very good defensively, has a really good gap and stick detail, and he moves the puck very well. It's a very simple game, very steady. "
#Sabres in AM:
Borgen-Hunwick-Tennyson extra (Hunwick has also returned)
— Mike Harrington (@ByMHarrington) April 2, 2019
5. By the numbers: Nashville's Viktor Arvidsson has 33 goals and one more will leave him alone as the franchise record-holder. He currently shares the mark with Filip Forsberg and Jason Arnott. ... The Predators have an abysmal power play, currently ranked 30th in the NHL at 12.9 percent and just 1 for 13 the last eight games. ... Look out in the third period, where Nashville has a plus-21 goal differential and the Sabres are minus-27. ... The Predators are 22-2-1 when leading after one period and 35-2-0 when leading after two. ... The Sabres are just 4-8-1 against the Central Division this season while Nashville is 10-3-2 against the Atlantic and 19-8-4 against the East.