Main storyline: Separated by 47 points in the standings, it is a matchup of the NHL’s best team and the NHL’s worst team on Sunday evening. The Buffalo Sabres (17-38-4) are home to host the Nashville Predators (39-13-7) at the First Niagara Center.
Season series: Sunday is the first of two meetings between the Sabres and Predators. The last meeting between the two teams came last season on March 27, 2014 when the Predators thrashed the Sabres at Bridgestone Arena 6-1. The final matchup between Buffalo and Nashville will be on March 21 at the Bridgestone Arena.
Where they stand: The Sabres still sit in last place in the NHL, six points behind 29th place Edmonton. The Oilers last played on Friday and lost 4-0 to the Minnesota Wild. For Nashville, the team sits on top of the league standings, and sit four points ahead of second place Montreal.
Recent performance: Buffalo got off to a very quick start on Friday against the Rangers when Matt Moulson got the Sabres up 1-0 just 14-seconds into the first period. However, the early lead fell apart, and the Rangers jumped out to a 3-1 lead and held on to that final score. Michal Neuvirth made 40 saves on 43 shots faced, but the Sabres could not test rookie Mackenzie Skapski, who recorded his first NHL win. Nashville was in Philadelphia on Saturday to play the Flyers, where the Preds fought back twice in order to tie the game. The game ended up going to a shootout where the Flyers get goals from Jakub Voracek and Wayne Simmonds to put away Nashville.
Buffalo notes: Sunday’s morning skate for the Sabres was full of news and controversy. Sabres head coach Ted Nolan talked to the media following practice and officially confirmed that Josh Gorges will be out for the rest of the season with his lower body injury that will require surgery. Mike Weber will be out 1-2 weeks with an upper body injury. Tyson Strachan is out with an infection that will sideline him at least for Sunday. And Nikita Zadorov will sit against Nashville due to violating team rules. That means the Sabres need to make two call-ups for the game, and those players are Mark Pysyk and Jake McCabe. Michal Neuvirth is expected to get the start once again in net for the Sabres.
Opponent notes: The Predators have had a season to remember in Smashville this season under the leadership of new head coach Peter Laviolette. The team also has gotten superb goaltending from Pekka Rinne and Carter Hutton. Rinne missed most of last season with a hip injury that resulted in an infection. This season, he has rebounded to lead the league in wins, second in the league in goals against average, and third in the NHL in save percentage. Rinne is not expected to start against the Sabres, but Hutton is after Rinne got the start in Philly. The Predators have had good play from its offense and defense, but the goaltending has carried Nashville throughout the year thus far.
Conclusion: Which team will prevail in the matchup of the best and worst teams? Find out when the puck drops at 6pm. The game can be seen on MSG Network.