KINGS (19-8-1) at SABRES (11-15-3)
TV: FS-W, MSG-B, BELL TV
BUFFALO -- The Los Angeles Kings head into their game against the Buffalo Sabres as the hottest team in the NHL.
The Kings won their sixth straight game Friday, 3-2 in a shootout against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Los Angeles is 7-0-1 in its past eight games, but faces a Sabres team that is 9-1-0 in the past 10 games against them at First Niagara Center.
"The feeling has been good even when we get down in games," defenseman Christian Ehrhoff said. "We are not panicking. We just keep playing our way and we know that sooner or later the puck's going to go in for us and we've got contributions from different people; especially now from the back end too the last little while which has helped us a lot. We just got on a roll."
The Kings held an optional skate Saturday and had four players on the ice: defensemen Jamie McBain and Derek Forbort, forward Michael Mersch and goalie Jhonas Enroth, who confirmed he will face his former team and make his fifth start of the season. He hasn't started since a 3-2 loss Nov. 20 against the Detroit Red Wings.
Enroth was drafted by the Sabres and spent more than five seasons in Buffalo before he was traded to the Dallas Stars on Feb. 11 for goalie Anders Lindback and a 2016 third-round pick. The Kings have four former Sabres on the roster with Enroth, Ehrhoff and defensemen Jamie McBain and Brayden McNabb.
"I think my last season [in Buffalo], last year, is a season I'm very proud of and looking back at it, I kind of smile when I think about last season," Enroth said. "It was a tough season for us, but I got to play a lot of games and I felt good throughout that year and it was a good experience. I think that's probably the biggest memory of my Sabres time here."
The Sabres have lost three in a row and 10 of their past 13 games and will have a new look to their lines against the Kings. Matt Moulson joins Jack Eichel and Evander Kane on the second line. Zemgus Girgensons moves to left wing on the third line as Johan Larsson returns to his natural center position there with captain Brian Gionta on the right wing. Jamie McGinn stays on the first line with Ryan O'Reilly and Sam Reinhart.
"Matt [Moulson] does his best work in the house in the offensive zone and that's where he needs to get to and where he needs to be to be productive for us," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. "He should get that opportunity with those two guys and their speed and their ability to lug the puck. That should give Matt the opportunity to get to that area where he needs to be to have success for us."
Moulson has four goals and eight assists in 29 games this season.
Rookie goalie Linus Ullmark will start for Buffalo. In his past three games, Ullmark has an .859 save percentage. He has lost five of his past six games and is 4-6-2 with a 2.85 goals-against average and .909 save percentage.
"I've been trying to play like I've been doing the first games, it just hasn't gone our way and my way," Ullmark said. "That's just how it is. It's just those small things that make you successful or not. It's hard to say what's wrong or what's right in those games. That's the beauty of it; you just got to keep on working, and it's going to come your way."
Here are the projected lineups:
Tanner Pearson – Anze Kopitar – Marian Gaborik
Milan Lucic – Jeff Carter – Tyler Toffoli
Michael Mersch – Nick Shore – Dustin Brown
Andy Andreoff – Jordan Weal – Jordan Nolan
Brayden McNabb – Drew Doughty
Jake Muzzin – Alec Martinez
Christian Ehrhoff – Jamie McBain
Injured: Kyle Clifford (upper body), Derek Forbort (illness), Matt Greene (upper body), Trevor Lewis (upper body), Derek King (lower body)
Jamie McGinn – Ryan O'Reilly – Sam Reinhart
Matt Moulson – Jack Eichel – Evander Kane
Zemgus Girgensons – Johan Larsson – Brian Gionta
Nicolas Deslauriers – David Legwand – Marcus Foligno
Josh Gorges – Rasmus Ristolainen
Jake McCabe – Zach Bogosian
Mike Weber – Cody Franson
Injured: Tyler Ennis (upper body), Mark Pysyk (lower body), Robin Lehner (ankle), Cody McCormick (blood clot)
Scratched: Cal O'Reilly, Carlo Colaiacovo
Status update: Bylsma said the injuries to Ennis and Pysyk have them out week-to-week.
Who's hot: Martinez has a goal and two assists in the past two games. … Ryan O'Reilly has two goals and six assists in the past six games. Reinhart has a goal and an assist in the past two games.