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After tough loss, Sabres look to rebound vs. Flyers

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber /

For as difficult as their recent loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday was - they took a 3-0 lead out of the first period only to lose 4-3 in regulation - the reality for the Buffalo Sabres is that they still sit five points out of a wild card berth in the Eastern Conference with 16 games remaining.

Whether that remains true after Tuesday depends on how the Sabres are able to respond against a team that's largely in the same position as them. The Philadelphia Flyers sit two points ahead of the Sabres, although they do have two games in hand. 

 Video: PREVIEW: PHI at BUF (3/7/17)

"I think it's going to be a tale of the game, is us rebounding from the emotional hit from the last game," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. "We're going to have to take the temperature real early on in this game of where we're at and how we're responding to two days ago." 

"We're not in the position where we can change our mentality too much," forward Sam Reinhart said. "We're in a position where we have to keep coming every day, preparing the same way, taking it one game at a time and it starts tonight."

The Sabres do have some success against the Flyers this season to lean on. They lost their first matchup in Philadelphia back in October when they let a three-goal lead slip away late in the third period, but a healthier Sabres team won 4-1 when the teams met again in Buffalo on Jan. 10. 

In the first contest between the two teams, the Flyers scored all three of their late goals came on the power play. They also scored their only goal in the rematch on the power play, but the difference was that the Sabres were able to limit them to just two opportunities. 

"I thought our last 60 minutes against them was one of our better 60-minute games you can point to throughout the year," Bylsma said. "One of the keys was limiting those opportunities that power play got. They're a team that's very aggressive, very aggressive on their forecheck, and get to their game by playing there and creating turnovers. We were very good at breaking out, limiting the amount of time and getting back the other way."

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Lately, Philadelphia has leaned on the play of goaltender Steve Mason. He's gotten the past three starts in net, in which he's 2-0-1 with a 0.96 goals-against average and a .969 save percentage, including a 33-save shutout of Colorado last Tuesday. 

For Buffalo, Jack Eichel and Ryan O'Reilly both enter the game on hot streaks of their own. Eichel has points in a career-best 10 straight games (3+10), the longest active streak in the NHL, and his 21 points (4+17) since Feb. 1 are tied with Chicago's Patrick Kane for the League lead.

O'Reilly, meanwhile, has goals in three straight games and six points overall in his last four. The goal streak coincides an increased amount of shots taken; he's taken 12 shots in the last two games combined after having taken just one in each of the previous three.

In fact, O'Reilly's taken four shots or more in 19 games this season, and he's scored goals in nine of them.

"Shooting the puck really is probably the biggest key to that, whether it's power play or 5-on-5," Bylsma said. "He's had a good amount of zone time and puck-possession time as a line and as a unit but it's when he's shot the puck that he's been a factor in the goal-scoring column for us and that's the same on the power play."

Robin Lehner will start in net for the Sabres.

The game can be seen live on NBCSN, or you can listen on WGR 550. The puck drops between the Sabres and Flyers at 7:30 pm. 


Projected lineup

9 Evander Kane - 90 Ryan O'Reilly - 12 Brian Gionta
82 Marcus Foligno - 15 Jack Eichel - 23 Sam Reinhart
44 Nicolas Deslauriers - 28 Zemgus Girgensons - 63 Tyler Ennis
26 Matt Moulson - 71 Evan Rodrigues - 56 Justin Bailey

29 Jake McCabe - 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
41 Justin Falk - 47 Zach Bogosian
4 Josh Gorges - 6 Cody Franson

40 Robin Lehner
31 Anders Nilsson

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