Coming off of two straight losses on home ice, the Buffalo Sabres will give it one last go in front of their fans when they conclude their home slate against the Montreal Canadiens tonight. It's a night that the Sabres had hoped would come much later at the outset of the season.
"This year feels like it flew by pretty quick and here we are," Foligno said. "For a disappointing season, we owe a lot to our fans for sticking by us against and can't thank our fans here enough for their support so a win here tonight would pay respect to that."
Video: Preview: MTL at BUF (4/5/17)
It will be Fan Appreciation Night at KeyBank Center, and the players have spoken at length the last two days about ending the season with a strong effort for the people in the building. In the end, though, the players and fans alike want what their opponent tonight has. Montreal has already clinched the Atlantic Division; their last home game will be in the playoffs.
Ryan O'Reilly was sincere in voicing the team's disappointment with the way their season is ending.
"Teams are going to the playoffs and to see them and the way they compete, we have to learn," he said. "We have to see what these teams are doing and we've got to win, we've got to compete for ourselves to show it. But we've got to watch, we've got to watch these teams and how they perform, how they play away from the puck and learn as much as we can."
The Sabres will see some changes to their lineup from the past two losses, the most notable being Jake McCabe sitting as a healthy scratch. McCabe has had multiple turnovers that led to goals for the opposition in the last two games. Justin Falk will join the lineup in his place.
"He's made a few gaffes with the puck in costly situations and costly areas and kind of gotten into a bit of a hole as a result of it and lost a bit of confidence with his puck play," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. "We've seen that the last couple of games."
Nicolas Deslauriers and Matt Moulson, meanwhile, will rejoin the lineup in place of C.J. Smith and William Carrier. That means that Alexander Nylander, who made his NHL debut against Toronto on Monday, will play again.
Bylsma said he liked a lot about Nylander's game, in particular the way he created space with his puck skills down low and extended possessions with passes to the Buffalo defensemen.
"I thought he showed some ability, shows some puck play. He has some poise in the offensive zone," Bylsma said. "I told him to go out and make those plays and show what he can do. He had some turnovers with the puck as well but I think he needs to have freedom to be able to go out there and do that because that's the kind of player he can be for us."
Foligno was on Nylander's line to begin the game on Monday, and said he offered some pregame advice along those same lines.
"I just talked to him before the game about just keeping things simple but also just showing your skill," he said. "He's got a ton of skill, you see it in his brother (Maple Leafs rookie William Nylander), it can't be too far off with him. They're both very skilled players so if he gets a chance to be flashy, be flashy, do your thing."
Robin Lehner will start in net, while Linus Ullmark was recalled to serve as his backup. Anders Nilsson sustained an injury in practice on Tuesday that will keep him from dressing for tonight's game, although Bylsma did not rule him out from the team's road trip in Florida this weekend.
Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with the Tops Pregame Show on MSG-B, or you can listen live on WGR 550. The puck drops at 7:30.
Update on Kyle Okposo
Bylsma said he does not expect forward Kyle Okposo to play in any of the team's three remaining games this season. Okposo has been out since last Tuesday due to an illness. Bylsma said team doctors are still working to get more information on his condition.
9 Evander Kane - 90 Ryan O'Reilly - 12 Brian Gionta
82 Marcus Foligno - 15 Jack Eichel - 23 Sam Reinhart
70 Alexander Nylander - 71 Evan Rodrigues - 63 Tyler Ennis
44 Nicolas Deslauriers - 28 Zemgus Girgensons - 26 Matt Moulson
4 Josh Gorges - 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
77 Dmitry Kulikov - 47 Zach Bogosian
41 Justin Falk - 6 Cody Franson
40 Robin Lehner
31 Anders Nilsson