Season Series: Second meeting of the season for these teams and the first since they were part of the NHL Premiere series in Helsinki, a 4-1 Sabres win.
Big Story: Since that season-opening meeting in Finland, each has followed a convoluted path to a similar position, just outside their respective conferences' playoff picture, each surging recently to get back in contention, but both fresh off losses, the Sabres losing in overtime to the Rangers in New York, the Ducks to the Avalanche in Colorado. While both have been playing solid hockey in recent weeks, the question remains whether the holes they dug for themselves are too deep to overcome.
Sabres: Given the Sabres' 12-game road losing streak that ended in late January, this next swing of seven road games in their next eight may cause a touch of trepidation. It is a different team now, thanks to a pair of deadline-day trades. Paul Gaustad is now in Nashville, Zack Kassian is in Vancouver and Cody Hodgson will be joining Buffalo's forward lines. If goalie Ryan Miller had any say in the matter, the changes would have been less radical.
"It was a pretty tough day," Miller said to the Buffalo News. "I’m not going to lie. I'm not real happy about the way it all turned out. But that's the business of hockey.
"Personally, he's a close friend, and also I think he's a big part of the team. No matter the way you view hockey, you have to understand how important players like Paul can be and how long it takes to develop a guy that plays that way at such a high level. Winning those faceoffs is not easy. Killing those penalties is not easy. Not a lot of guys are willing to do that job every night, and he was."
Ducks: General manager Bob Murray had different thoughts back in January, and just about everybody thought the Ducks would be a seller at the time, but a 17-5-4 record since New Year's Day can change a lot of minds, and Murray was content to stand pat on Monday.
"A long time ago you thought we'd be sellers here," Murray said to NHL.com. "Players responded to the challenge. As weeks went on… talks weren't talks anymore. We kind of pulled ourselves right back from everything. The players deserved this opportunity and they're getting this opportunity.
"It made it real simple here the past couple of weeks. Good for them."
Who's Hot: Derek Roy has eight points (2 goals, 6 assists) in his last six games. Jason Pominville hasn't scored in his last two games, but had 11 in his previous eight. Drew Stafford scored both Buffalo goals Saturday night and has five points in his last five games. No question a big part of the Ducks' resurgence is Jonas Hiller, who has contributed a 15-4-4 record over his past 24 games.
Injury Report: Brad Boyes (undisclosed injury) is day-to-day but could be ready for the western trip. Cody McCormick (upper body) is also on the day-to-day list. Ducks goalie Dan Ellis (groin) continues to skate in Anaheim but has yet to take any shots on goal.
Stat Pack: Patrick Kaleta was minus-3 in the loss to the Rangers and was burned both on Marian Gaborik's tying goal and Ryan Callahan's winner. One reason Miller believes the Sabres will miss Gaustad is his 57-percent success rate on faceoffs. Jonas Hiller allowed four goals in Colorado, the first time he's done that since Feb. 1 when he allowed six to the Stars. Hiller allowed only three twice in the 12 games in between and two or fewer in the other nine.
Puck Drop: "When we evaluated our team, we knew we had to get better. If it meant taking a minor step back, we were prepared to do it. It still allows us to run at the playoffs. We're all aware of the odds against us, but Cody will give us a good boost on the offensive side. We certainly lose Gaus' competitiveness and size and thickness, and his ability to play against the other teams' top line." -- Buffalo GM Darcy Regier in the Buffalo News on the team's moves at the trade deadline