It's with a bit of irony that the newly-implemented bye week in the NHL, a break instituted to give players more time off during the season, has also been responsible for making teams busier on a day-to-day basis. The Sabres will begin their bye week on Monday, but they also had to play 11 games in the first 19 days of February to get there.
Before they can think about taking time off, they have game No. 11 of that stretch awaiting them against the Chicago Blackhawks at KeyBank Center on Sunday. The Sabres, sitting two points behind Boston for the second wild card berth, are looking for their first four-game win streak of the season.
Video: Preview: BUF vs. CHI (2/19/17
Past history, these types of situations going into breaks - Christmas break, All-Star break - this is a little bit of a trap game," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. "Our focus has been, the last six and really the last four, is one game at a time. We talked about having one game four times before the break … That was our talk after the game last night. It was a big game for us and a big win, and it's over with. We've got one game here one more time before the break."
Buffalo hosted St. Louis on Saturday, a team it hadn't beaten in its last nine tries, and edged out a 3-2 win. Similarly, they're winless in their last 10 games against the Blackhawks, having gone 0-8-2 that stretch.
That's not to say they haven't come close. The drought against Chicago has included its fair share of recent heartbreakers, like the game on April 3, 2015, when Buffalo led 3-2 going into the final two minutes only to see Jonathan Toews score the game-tying and game-winning goals less than a minute apart. Or you can look to Dec. 19, 2015, when Ryan O'Reilly scored the go-ahead goal with less than four minutes remaining only to see Patrick Kane tie the game in the final minute of an eventual shootout win for Chicago.
You can also look at the first matchup between the two teams this season, on Jan. 5, when Kane fed Artem Anisimov for the game-tying goal with just 2:04 remaining in regulation and then scored a mere 56 seconds into overtime. Buffalo led that game in the third despite having given the Blackhawks chances throughout.
"We were in the game throughout the game but did let it slip away," Bylsma said. "I think they had 88 shot attempts in the game, I think was our most attempts give up on the year. Particularly in the second period they did a good job of going quick and going long against us so we had some turnovers in that's second period and they were able to transition back the other way to where they're a good team, which is on the rush."
Sam Reinhart will miss his second game in a row with the flu, meaning Nicholas Baptiste will remain in the lineup after scoring a goal and an assist on Saturday. The rest of the lineup will also remain the same as in Saturday's win.
Robin Lehner will start in net for the seventh game in a row.
The game can be seen live on NBCSN or heard on WGR 550, with puck drop set for 6 p.m.
56 Justin Bailey - 90 Ryan O'Reilly - 21 Kyle Okposo
9 Evander Kane - 15 Jack Eichel - 73 Nicholas Baptiste
82 Marcus Foligno - 71 Evan Rodrigues - 12 Brian Gionta
26 Matt Moulson - 44 Nicolas Deslauriers - 63 Tyler Ennis
29 Jake McCabe - 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
4 Josh Gorges - 77 Dmitry Kulikov
47 Zach Bogosian - 6 Cody Franson
40 Robin Lehner
31 Anders Nilsson