The Buffalo Sabres look to snap their five-game losing streak Tuesday night in KeyBank Center and there will be no excuses if they can’t do it against the Los Angeles Kings, who are in 30th place in the NHL’s 31-team overall standing. Faceoff is 7 p.m. on MSG and WGR Radio 550.
The Sabres are No. 7 at 17-9-4 for 38 points while Los Angeles is just 11-19-1 for 23 points, already buried in the Western Conference standings 12 points out of a playoff spot. There are still nine players on the roster from Los Angeles’ Stanley Cup teams in 2012 and 2014, but the Kings have only won one playoff game since their second Cup and appear likely to miss the postseason entirely for the third time in five years.
Here are Five Things to Know about tonight’s game:
1. Lineup news: The Sabres had an extremely limited morning skate today. The only player on the ice who will be in the game is goaltender Linus Ullmark, making his third straight start. Carter Hutton will back up and it seems like there’s a good chance he gets the call Thursday against Arizona.
“He had a really good day yesterday,” coach Phil Housley said of Hutton today. “I just want to get him in one more practice before he plays but it’s good to see him ready to play.”
Patrik Berglund (illness) will sit out while Zemgus Girgensons will be back in the lineup after sitting out Saturday’s game against Philadelphia as a healthy scratch.
Housley said all of the players who have been injured (defensemen Marco Scandella, Jake McCabe and Casey Nelson and forward Scott Wilson) have “touched the ice” in recent days. Scandella joined the goalies on the ice this morning and would be the closest to returning to practice.
2. Heavily home series: The Sabres are 9-3-2 at home this year and 7-1-2 in their last 10, and this is a series that has been heavily in favor of home teams. The home team has won 15 of the last 17 games, with the exceptions being the last two meetings: The Kings’ 4-2 win here on Feb. 17 was their first one in KeyBank Center since the 2002-03 season and Buffalo’s 5-1 win Oct. 20 in Los Angeles was its first at Staples Center since the 2003-04 season.
Los Angeles’ win here nearly nine months ago is best remembered as the game where a frustrated Buffalo General Manager Jason Botterill slammed the door to his press box suite and briefly left it as the Sabres fell into a 4-0 hole.
3. Kings’ local connections: Eden native Alex Iafallo will be playing his second career game in Buffalo tonight. He has five goals and seven assists and is one of seven players to appear in all 31 games this season. Goalie Cal Petersen, the former Sabres prospect from Notre Dame who didn’t sign with Buffalo and instead opted to go to LA in 2017, will be the starter in goal. He’s 4-4, 2.41/.929 this season since coming up from Ontario of the AHL.
4. Home and rested: The Kings suffered a 3-1 loss Monday in Detroit, so the Sabres will have the back-to-back advantage. It’s just Los Angeles’ fourth set of back-to-backs this season and the Kings are 0-2-1 in them. They dropped Monday’s game despite a 43-21 advantage in shots on goal and an 81-43 bulge in shot attempts.
“The start of this game is huge today,” Girgensons said. “We need to get on them early and get control of the game from the start. That has to be our main focus. Have a great start and then keep working.”
Sure does. the Kings have been outscored, 27-16, in the first period this season.
“We have to have an aggressive mindset tonight,” Housley added. “Regardless of who’s in the net for LA, we have to control what we can control and that’s the 60 minutes of work we have to put in tonight. The guys had a really good practice [Monday]. Upbeat, uptempo. Hopefully, that will relay into the game tonight.”
5. Numbers games: The Sabres are 0-3-2 in their last five games and have been outscored, 20-12, in those games. The Kings are 2-5 in their last seven games and have been outscored, 19-15. Los Angeles’ 68 goals in 31 games are the fewest in the NHL. … Los Angeles, however, has been decent defensively. The Kings are tied for sixth in the league in 5-on-5 goals against while the Sabres are 15th. LA has been terrible at special teams, 28th on the power play and 29th on the penalty kill. … The Sabres are 6-2-1 against the Pacific Division and 8-4-1 against the Western Conference.