STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN - The Buffalo Sabres last played on Saturday, Nov. 2 and have had five days between games. Tonight, they'll finally take the ice again at Ericsson Globe in Stockholm as part of the 2019 NHL Global Series.
Buffalo will play the Tampa Bay Lightning in what will be an 8 p.m. faceoff in Sweden, but a 2 p.m. start time back in the United States. Fans can catch the game on NBCSN. Rick Jeanneret and Rob Ray will be live at (716) Food and Sport for the radio broadcast on WGR 550.
The Global Series is designed to bring regular-season NHL hockey to European markets, where games in North America typically don't start until 1 or 2 in the morning.
The Sabres have embraced their roles as league ambassadors for the trip and it's a position that coach Ralph Krueger hasn't taken lightly. He looks at Tampa Bay, for example, as one of the top teams in the league that have gotten many opportunities like this over the years on both the national and international stage.
He hopes the Sabres can continue to work towards being regulars at events like the Global Series.
"This event, for sure, is excellent for the team. All the distractions and the white noise - which again, are positive, not negative - you need to be able to still bring it in when that puck drops tonight," he said. "To be 100 percent focused then on the execution we need to have is a challenge. But I feel the group is able to manage it well and is up to it.
"We have a good feeling about the spirit of the team and the focus on what we need to be doing tonight. So, let the evolution of our team continue with an event like this."
Video: PREGAME: Krueger
Outside of the X's and O's, captain Jack Eichel believes that this trip has helped the team become a stronger group off the ice.
"I've gotten to some guys a little bit better on this trip and it's really great for our team moving forward," he said. "The relationships we build off the ice will contribute to on-ice success. It's been a good experience in terms of getting to know each other better and just spending time together and bonding."
However, it's now time for the players to turn their attention to the task at hand - a back-to-back set against the Lightning, who are 6-5-2 on the season and working to climb their way back into a playoff position.
"You've been waiting and waiting. It's nice to get a game day and get in the routine. You start thinking about how important this game is," Johan Larsson said. "We had a couple days, we've been enjoying it. Now it's time to go to work."
Linus Ullmark will start between the pipes for Buffalo. He's one of five Swedish players, including Larsson, Victor Olofsson, Marcus Johansson and Rasmus Dahlin, the Sabres are expected to dress tonight. Lawrence Pilut will serve as a healthy scratch.
The Tampa Bay Lightning have one Swedish player on their roster: Victor Hedman, the Norris Trophy winning-defenseman. He's been dealing with a lower-body injury that has caused him to miss Tampa Bay's last two games, but he is expected to play tonight.
68 Victor Olofsson - 9 Jack Eichel - 23 Sam Reinhart
53 Jeff Skinner - 90 Marcus Johansson - 17 Vladimir Sobotka
28 Zemgus Girgensons - 22 Johan Larsson - 21 Kyle Okposo
13 Jimmy Vesey - 37 Casey Mittelstadt - 43 Conor Sheary
19 Jake McCabe - 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
62 Brandon Montour - 33 Colin Miller
26 Rasmus Dahlin - 10 Henri Jokiharju
35 Linus Ullmark
40 Carter Hutton
According to NHL.com, Buffalo can become the first team to win each of its first three regular-season games played outside North America. The Sabres defeated the Anaheim Ducks 4-1 in Helsinki, Finland, and the Los Angeles Kings 4-2 in Berlin, Germany, to start the 2011-12 season.
NHL.com also notes that Dahlin, the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, has the ninth-most regular-season points in NHL history among teenage defensemen (55; 10 goals, 45 assists in 97 games).
The 19-year-old is set to become the 17th teenager in NHL history to skate in a regular-season game outside North America. He'll be the seventh defenseman, joining Scott Hannan (San Jose Sharks, Oct. 9, 1998), Dmitry Kulikov (Florida Panthers, Oct. 2-3, 2009), Oliver Ekman-Larsson (Arizona Coyotes, Oct. 9-10, 2010), Cam Fowler (Ducks, Oct. 7-8, 2011), Samuel Girard (Colorado Avalanche, Nov. 10-11, 2017) and Evan Bouchard (Edmonton Oilers, Oct. 6, 2018).
Hannan (two assists) and Girard (one assist) are the only teenage defensemen to have a point in a regular-season NHL game outside North America. The two teens to score a goal in such an NHL game are forwards Tyler Seguin of the Boston Bruins (Oct. 10, 2010) and Patrick Marleau of the Sharks (Oct. 10, 1998).