Columbus Blue Jackets (48-19-7) vs. Buffalo Sabres (32-32-12)
TUESDAY, MARCH 28, 2017, 7 p.m. (NATIONWIDE ARENA)
In 14th place in the Eastern Conference as time ticks down on the season, the Buffalo Sabres will miss the playoffs for the seventh straight season. What was once one of the NHL's most consistent franchises with 13 playoff appearances in 14 years from 1988-2001 and consecutive conference finals appearances in 2006 and '07 remains at the drawing board.
Which is why Monday night's game for the Sabres was somewhat special. Veteran Brian Gionta played in and his 1000th NHL game and scored a goal in a 4-2 victory against the Panthers. He became the 312th NHL player (23rd active player) to play in 1,000 games as well as the 43rd American player to reach the milestone.
"When he scored the goal, I think half our bench jumped up like it was a playoff goal," head coach Dan Bylsma said. "Everyone was pleased to see him get the reward and in a goal scorer's touch around the net."
"To be able to be out there with him is a great honor with him but it's a proud moment for me being a teammate, being a friend," defenseman Josh Gorges added. "To be able to witness the emotion of his family, it was a great night. Top it off, the guy scores end it ends up being a game-winner."
After the game, teammates wore T-shirts with a caricature of their captain on them, and Gionta's family joined him on the ice for a pregame ceremony honoring his achievement.
You Oughta Know: Robin Lehner
There isn't much debate who the hottest goaltender in the world is, and that's Sergei Bobrovsky, who has been nearly unbeatable in March. But if you're looking for someone who is right behind, you could do a lot worse than Buffalo's Robin Lehner. The 25-year old has stopped 222 of 236 shots (.941) in his last seven appearances and got the win vs. Florida. At 6-4, 239 pounds, the Swede takes up a lot of net, and he's also not afraid to get into it with both teammates and foes, as this scrum last year vs. Montreal and a near fight with Columbus last year attest.
[Fire Emoji] Right Now
- Jack Eichel’s two-assist night Monday against the Panthers gives him 34 points (11 goals, 23 assists) in 26 games since his last two-game stretch without a point from Jan. 31 and Feb. 2. Eichel now has 32 assists in 55 games this season, tying last year’s total in 26 fewer games.
- Since Dec. 1, Evander Kane ranks sixth among all NHL skaters in goals (26) and leads the league in even-strength goals (23).
- Kyle Okposo, who missed the previous games vs. Columbus, has 14 points (4-10) in his last 16 games played.
Five Fast Facts
- The Sabres are 19-14-6 against teams currently in the playoffs but just 13-18-6 on teams outside of the playoffs.
- The Sabres' top-scoring defenseman, Rasmus Ristolainen, will be sitting out the third game of a three-game suspension for boarding Pittsburgh's Jake Guentzel on March 21. The hit left Guentzel with a concussion.
- Injuries: Cody Franson (undisclosed; March 20) has missed the last 4 games, as his Taylor Fedun (foot). Buffalo has 372 man-games lost to injury this season.
- The Sabres and Jackets each play 19 back-to-backs this season, tied for most in the NHL. Buffalo is 6-9-1 in the second game of back-to-backs this season.
- Former Jackets: Defenseman Justin Falk played 29 games with Columbus over the past two seasons, scoring a single goal with five assists.
March 10: Columbus 4, Buffalo 3
March 11: Buffalo 5, Columbus 3
ALL TIME SERIES: Jackets lead 14-10-1
Keys to the Game
Bring the kill: Special teams have been important throughout the year but that has been especially true of late. Buffalo's power play ranks first in the NHL, providing a big challenge for the Jackets.
No letdown: The Sabres have been better this year against playoff teams than non-playoff teams. The Blue Jackets have to be tuned in from the opening faceoff.
Play 60: Taking a 3-0 lead in the last game between the teams, Columbus watched the Sabres roar back with five unanswered goals to take the win. Even out of the playoffs again, the Sabres do not go down lightly.
Sabres Projected Lineup
|21||Kyle Okposo||65 GP, 19-26-45||90||Ryan O'Reilly||66 GP, 19-32-51||12||Brian Gionta||76 GP, 15-18-33|
|82||Marcus Foligno||76 GP, 13-10-23||15||Jack Eichel||55 GP, 23-32-55||23||Sam Reinhart||74 GP, 17-29-46|
|26||Matt Moulson||76 GP, 14-17-31||28||Zemgus Girgensons||69 GP, 6-9-15||48||William Carrier||37 GP, 4-2-6|
|9||Evander Kane||64 GP, 26-14-40||71||Evan Rodrigues||24 GP, 3-2-5||63||Tyler Ennis||45 GP, 4-8-12|
|29||Jake McCabe||71 GP, 3-16-19, -5||77||Dmitry Kulikov||51 GP, 2-3-5, -19|
|41||Justin Falk||48 GP, 0-8-8, -1||4||Josh Gorges||60 GP, 1-4-5, -1|
|47||Zach Bogosian||50 GP, 2-8-10, -16||67||Brady Austin||4 GP, 0-0-0, 0|
10 Stats to Know
Impress your friends and enemies alike with these 10 key Buffalo Sabres stats.
|Last 10||Standings||PP%||PK%||CF60 (5x5)||CA60 (5x5||PDO||OT (SHO)||FO%||GF-GF (5x5)|
|5-5-0||7th, Atlantic||25.1 (1)||77.0 (27)||52.82||59.52||99.50 (22)||8-12, 2-6||49.8 (15)||119-142|