The final road game of the regular season has arrived for the Nashville Predators, and it puts them in Buffalo tonight for a date with the Sabres. It's the second and final meeting of the campaign between the two; the Preds defeated the Sabres back in Nashville in December.
This evening's contest kicks off the final three games of the regular season for the Predators, a trio of opportunities to gain points and potentially come away with a second-straight division title. More importantly, however, the Preds are still concerned with playing the way they'd prefer heading into the postseason next week.
The Predators could get some help up front as early as tonight with forward Austin Watson back with the team after completing a long-term injury loan stint with Milwaukee of the American Hockey League where he tallied four goals in two games.
[Read More: Preds Projected Lineup at Sabres]
[Read More: Watson Rejoins Preds as Final Week of Regular Season Arrives]
Watson skated on a line with Colton Sissons and Nick Bonino during Monday's practice in Nashville, and while it remains to be seen exactly when he will re-enter the lineup, the Predators would welcome his return as they fight for seeding in this final week.
"We've still been putting our nose to the grindstone and just working every day, watching video and just trying to get better," Sissons said. "We have a few games left to fine tune the machine here, and we're looking forward to a big night in Buffalo. Hopefully we can string a couple together heading into the playoffs."
Update: Preds Head Coach Peter Laviolette confirmed Watson will return to the Nashville lineup tonight in Buffalo.
"We thought it was important just to go down and work on his game, because even if you're in shape, I still think the game takes place and you get your game timing and systems and that sort of thing," Laviolette said of Watson. "He played in all possible scenarios down there and helped their team to a couple of wins... All reports are that he played extremely well, so he'll come back and he'll jump in our lineup tonight."
"I just wanted to feel good, play with speed, play with pace, be physical and do all the things that make me a successful player," Watson said of his time in Milwaukee. "I wanted to go down there and just get going again. With the time off you don't do things for a while, you've got to start doing them at some point. You have to start hitting guys, get on the forecheck and playing within the systems, and it was a great opportunity for me to do that."
Video: Watson ready to return for Preds
Last Time Out:
Viktor Arvidsson and Filip Forsberg tallied for the Preds in their 5-2 loss to Columbus on Saturday night, while Juuse Saros minded the net. Arvidsson's strike was his 33rd of the season, good enough to tie the Nashville single-season franchise record for goals.
Ryan Johansen leads the group with 62 points, followed by Roman Josi with 55 and Forsberg with 47. Arvidsson's 33 goals are tops on the team, followed by Forsberg's 27 and Craig Smith's 20.
The Sabres have been eliminated from playoff contention and have dropped seven games in a row, including a 4-0 loss to Columbus on Sunday. Jack Eichel leads the club with 77 points, followed by Sam Reinhart with 62 and Jeff Skinner with 60. Skinner has 37 goals, Eichel has 27 and Reinhart has 20. Former Preds netminder Carter Hutton is 17-24-5 in net this season; Linus Ullmark is 14-14-5.
Video: Coach Laviolette talks Preds at Sabres
The Predators are 15-8-(1)-2 all-time against the Sabres, including a 10-1-(1)-0 record on the road. The Predators have earned at least a point in nine of their last 11 meetings with the Sabres (8-2-1).
Nashville has won seven consecutive road games over Buffalo, a streak that dates back to Dec. 1, 2008. The Preds have limited the Sabres to two-or-fewer goals in five of those games.
Notables Versus Buffalo:
Viktor Arvidsson (March 21, 2015) and Juuse Saros (Nov. 28, 2015) made their NHL debuts versus the Sabres.
Ryan Johansen is on a personal nine-game point streak against Buffalo in which he's tallied 10 points (2g-8a), and Craig Smith has eight points (4g-4a) in 12 career matchups with Buffalo.
Watch & Listen:
Coverage for tonight's 6 p.m. (CT) puck drop in Buffalo begins with Predators Live on Fox Sports Tennessee at 5:30 p.m. Willy Daunic, Chris Mason and Lyndsay Rowley have the call on the television side, while Pete Weber and Hal Gill will broadcast on 102.5 The Game and the Predators Radio Network. For broadcast information and channel locations throughout the country, click here.
If the Predators are playing hockey, you can count on the game being on at Preds Approved Bars & Restaurants. Locations throughout Tennessee may be seen by clicking here.
Tonight's Preds Official Watch Party takes place at Buffalo Wild Wings in Hermitage. One lucky winner will be selected at the watch party to receive two tickets to the Fan Appreciation Night game on April 6 and a jersey off a Preds player's back.
To enter the "Shirts Off Our Backs" Sweepstakes, visit NashvillePredators.com/shirts or enter with the Predators App.
Listen to a Live Radio Feed (only active during the game broadcast window).
Watch a Live Stream of the game on the Fox Sports Go App or Watch on NHL.TV