BUFFALO – When the Buffalo Sabres and Carolina Hurricanes meet Friday at First Niagara Center (7 p.m. ET; FS-CR, MSG-B, BELL TV), it will be the first time Sabres forward Jack Eichel and Hurricanes defenseman Noah Hanifin will face off against each other.
Eichel was the second pick in the 2015 NHL Draft out of Boston University and is best friends with Hanifin, who was taken fifth out of Boston College. After they played against each other in the NCAA last season as rivals, facing each other in the NHL makes it a bit more special for them.
"I think we're both where we want to be right now," Hanifin said. "I got to know Jack pretty well a few years ago when I played with him in the national program out in Michigan. Obviously he's from [Massachusetts] too, so I played against him when we were young and I think we formed a pretty good relationship over the past few years. … Obviously he's having a lot of success right now. He's a great player and a great kid."
Eichel is tied for the Sabres lead in goals with Ryan O'Reilly at seven in 22 games and has four assists as well. Hanifin has a goal and three assists in 19 games.
"I think both of us have trained our whole lives for this opportunity and to be in this situation," Eichel said. "I'm sure he's doing really well. I've been keeping tabs on him a little bit. I'm sure he's enjoying it; this is what we've both worked for our whole lives. It's good to see him enjoying himself and doing so well."
Even though this is the first time Eichel and Hanifin are facing each other as professionals, the impact they've had on their teams has been noticeable already.
"All these young guys coming in the League are so much further ahead than they used to be five, 10 years ago," Hurricanes coach Bill Peters said. "Eichel and Hanifin are going to be special players down the road."
Sabres forward Evander Kane and defenseman Zach Bogosian did not skate Friday morning and coach Dan Bylsma said they'll be game-time decisions. Kane has a lower-body injury and did not participate in the Sabres optional skate Wednesday, but played in the 3-2 loss to the Nashville Predators.
"It gives [Kane and Bogosian] the best chance to be good in the game tonight not going on the ice today," Bylsma said.
The Sabres have lost six straight games and will start Chad Johnson in net.
The Hurricanes have won two of the past three games and have gotten a lot of offense from defenseman Justin Faulk on the power play. Faulk leads all NHL defensemen with eight power-play goals this season.
"He's got a real good shot, a real good release; understanding what's going on on the power play, how to get open," Peters said. "He's going to distribute the puck more and more after people start to take him away, so I think it's going to open some different options and something that has to evolve."
Cam Ward will start.
Here are the projected lineups:
Eric Staal – Victor Rask – Elias Lindholm
Joakim Nordstrom – Jordan Staal – Andrej Nestrasil
Jeff Skinner – Riley Nash – Kris Versteeg
Brad Malone – Jay McClement – Chris Terry
Ron Hainsey – Justin Faulk
Brett Pesce – John-Michael Liles
Jaccob Slavin – Noah Hanifin
Injured: Nathan Gerbe (ankle), James Wisniewski (knee)
Scratched: Michal Jordan
Evander Kane – Ryan O'Reilly – Sam Reinhart
Matt Moulson – Jack Eichel – Brian Gionta
Nicolas Deslauriers – Zemgus Girgensons – Marcus Foligno
Jamie McGinn – David Legwand – Tim Schaller
Josh Gorges – Rasmus Ristolainen
Jake McCabe – Zach Bogosian
Carlo Colaiacovo – Cody Franson
Injured: Tyler Ennis (upper body), Mike Weber (knee), Mark Pysyk (lower body), Robin Lehner (ankle), Cody McCormick (blood clot)
Scratched: Johan Larsson
Status update: Bylsma said his lineup will be a game-time decision. If Kane can't play, Larsson will take his spot. Weber skated Thursday and Bylsma said he could play if needed.
Who's hot: Faulk has three goals and six assists in the past seven games. … Lindholm has a goal and two assists in the past three games. … Liles has two assists in the past two games. … Johnson is 4-1-0 in his career against the Hurricanes.