Buffalo Sabres (13-10-5) at Calgary Flames (13-12-4)
7 p.m., Scotiabank Saddledome, Sportsnet West/Sportsnet 960 The Fan
THE BIG MATCHUP
Sabres C Jack Eichel vs. Flames C Sean Monahan
Honestly, this could probably be “Eichel vs. Everybody” because the Sabres centre has been on an absolute tear. He’s got seven points in the Sabres’ last three games and is emerging as a bonafide superstar in the NHL. They haven’t seen an offensive dynamo this good around Buffalo since the early-1990s when it was Pat LaFontaine and Alexander Mogilny ripping it up.
- WHAT DO THE FLAMES LOOK LIKE?
The Flames practised on Tuesday and Wednesday and their lines were extremely unfamiliar . Johnny Gaudreau was skating on a line with Derek Ryan and Milan Lucic, for example. That’s definitely not something we’ve seen before. It’s worth noting that interim head coach Geoff Ward was clear that nothing was set in stone and the coaching staff had to meet after practice Wednesday to decide their plan. Whether they roll with the lines we saw in practice or go back to their usual combinations is the biggest question heading into Thursday’s game.
- GETTING FAMILIAR
The Sabres and Flames only ever see each other twice a year so there’s not really much of an organic rivalry here. But this season, they happen to be playing those two games in a span of eight days. They last met last Wednesday and the Flames squeaked out a 3-2 overtime win in Buffalo . Does familiarity breed contempt? We’ll find out.
- ON A ROLL, SORT OF
The Sabres have quietly started getting back on track after a rough stretch in November. The same could be said of the Flames, to be fair, but the Sabres have rattled off points in their last four games. Two of those were overtime losses, but they’re also coming off a brutal 7-1 beatdown of the New Jersey Devils on Monday. They’re no pushovers, that’s for sure.
- HAMONIC BACK
The Flames should be getting a nice piece of defensive reinforcement back against the Sabres with the return of Travis Hamonic to the lineup. The 29-year-old has been out of action since the team’s Nov. 17 game against the Vegas Golden Knights but has been back with his usual partner-in-crime, Noah Hanifin, at practice this week.
- THIS AND THAT
The Flames sent forward Austin Czarnik down to the Stockton Heat for a conditioning stint on Wednesday morning … Ward said the team is targeting Dec. 10 as a tentative return date for Sam Bennett … The Flames will rotate their goalies this week, trying to get a start in for both David Rittich and Cam Talbot.
Matthew Tkachuk – Elias Lindholm – Andrew Mangiapane
Mikael Backlund – Sean Monahan – Dillon Dube
Johnny Gaudreau – Derek Ryan – Milan Lucic
Tobias Rieder – Mark Jankowski – Michael Frolik
Mark Giordano – TJ Brodie
Noah Hanifin – Travis Hamonic
Oliver Kylington – Rasmus Andersson
Victor Olofsson – Jack Eichel – Sam Reinhart
Jeff Skinner – Johan Larsson – Conor Sheary
Casey Mittelstadt – Marcus Johansson – Jimmy Vesey
Zemgus Girgensons – Rasmus Asplund – Henri Jokiharju
Brandon Montour – Rasmus Ristolainen
Zach Bogosian – Jake McCabe
Colin Miller – Marco Scandella
Flames — LW Sam Bennett (shoulder), D Juuso Valimaki (knee)
Sabres — Rasmus Dahlin (concussion), Evan Rodrigues (lower), Kyle Okposo (concussion), Vladimir Sobotka (lower), Tage Thompson (upper)
Flames: 16.5? (15-of-91, 23
Sabres: 18.6% (16-of-86, 18 th )
Flames: 85.4% (5
Sabres: 74.7% (29 th )
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