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Sabres can set franchise record for most consecutive wins tonight

Buffalo goes for 11 in a row when they take on Tampa Bay at 7:30 p.m. from Amalie Arena

by Chris Ryndak @ChrisRyndak / Sabres.com

TAMPA - It's been a wild ride for the Buffalo Sabres this month. A win tonight would give the Sabres 11 straight victories for the first time in franchise history. 

Since their 10-game winning streak began on Nov. 8, 18 different players have recorded points and 17 have scored. Jeff Skinner (10+1) and captain Jack Eichel (1+10) lead the way over that stretch.

"You go down the list, everyone that's come into the room has contributed in one way or another. I'd say that's probably the biggest part of our success, is everyone's contributing," alternate captain Zach Bogosian said. "First line all the way down to fourth line, first D pairing all the way down to the third, and whatever goalie's playing has been keeping us in every game and has been closing out games for us. It's been fun."

Video: GAME PREVIEW

With 36 points, they're currently tied for first place in the NHL with Toronto, but have a game in hand on the Maple Leafs. They'll go up against a Tampa Bay Lightning team tonight that's just one point behind. 

A win tonight would top the franchise record for most consecutive wins, set in January 1984 and tied during October 2006.

Faceoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. from Amalie Arena with the GMC Game Night pregame show on MSG kicking off our coverage at 7 p.m. Dan Dunleavy and Rob Ray will have the call after the opening faceoff on MSG and WGR 550.

"You obviously have to believe in yourself and believe in team. Through a win streak like this, you can learn a lot," Eichel said. "For one, I think we've learned that we can win every game we play in if we give ourselves a chance and play the right way.

"That's a pretty big characteristic of a winning team. If they don't play well, if maybe they don't have their best game, they still find a way to get a point or win a game in extra time. I think we've done that through this stretch and it's so important. In an 82-game season, you're not going to play your best every night and if you're able to try and hang around the game, it's real important."

Through it all, Buffalo has found different ways to win. They've come from behind, they've weathered the opposition's rallies, they've won in overtime and in the shootout. 

In fact, nine of the 10 wins have been by one goal, and seven have been decided in overtime or the shootout. According to NHL.com, the only other team in NHL history to have as many one-goal victories as part of a winning streak of at least 10 games was the Pittsburgh Penguins, who won nine one-goal games during a 15-game run from March 2-30, 2013.

"We're not playing for a streak, we're playing for another two points tonight, and that's where our mindset is - not anywhere else," forward Sam Reinhart said. "It hasn't been that difficult to not focus on anything else. We haven't really done anything yet and we're well aware of that, but as that belief grows, our mindset is to take it one day at a time. And today, we've got [a game against] one of the best teams in the league."

The Lightning are 17-7-1 on the season with 35 points. They're coming off a 3-1 loss to Anaheim on Tuesday.

"We're looking forward to playing a great team," Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman said. "They're one point ahead of us in the standings and they're in our way for No. 1 so we've got to make sure we have a good game tonight."

Ondrej Palat, who has missed 16 games due to a lower-body injury, is expected to return to the lineup for Tampa. Louis Domingue will start in net as Andrei Vasilevskiy is out with a broken foot. 

The Sabres defeated the Lightning 2-1 back on Nov. 13, which accounted for Win No. 3 of the streak. 

"It's going to be a terrific challenge for us. Obviously, we know we've played some good hockey, but that's a good hockey team over there," coach Phil Housley said. "They're really going to challenge us for 60 minutes. The thing that I look at in Tampa Bay, they work extremely hard, especially without the puck. We have to play to our identity tonight for 60 minutes."


Projected lineup

Video: PREGAME: Housley

Conor Sheary and Marco Scandella, who both missed Buffalo's last game, will be out again tonight. Housley said they could be available for tomorrow night's match against the Panthers. 

Carter Hutton will be the starting goalie.

53 Jeff Skinner - 9 Jack Eichel - 23 Sam Reinhart 
72 Tage Thompson - 37 Casey Mittelstadt - 21 Kyle Okposo
71 Evan Rodrigues - 17 Vladimir Sobotka - 29 Jason Pominville
81 Remi Elie - 22 Johan Larsson - 28 Zemgus Girgensons

19 Jake McCabe - 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
26 Rasmus Dahlin - 4 Zach Bogosian
82 Nathan Beaulieu - 8 Casey Nelson

40 Carter Hutton
35 Linus Ullmark


Hunwick skates with team for 1st time

Video: MATT HUNWICK

Defenseman Matt Hunwick was on the ice for the morning skate, taking line rushes with Lawrence Pilut. Hunwick, who was acquired with Sheary in a trade with Pittsburgh over the summer, has been out with a neck injury since the start of training camp. 

He's been looking forward to a fresh start in Buffalo and has had to wait to really assimilate himself with his new teammates.

"It's a little weird to start the season in November, almost December now," he said. "I felt like I had a great summer, then to have an injury come up late in the summer and not being able to participate, especially being a part of a new organization, you want to come in and put your best forward. It's been a slow process, but I'm thankful to be back on the ice with the group."

He sustained the injury while training over the summer and the timetable for his return is still indefinite. 

Housley anticipates Hunwick being able to return to game action at some point this season. Getting back on the ice with his teammates is another good step in the recovery process.

"I think it's great. Obviously, it's been a tough year for him, but he's finally getting back to skating with us and progressing," Housley said. "I'm sure he's glad to get out of the house. It's probably been a long time since he's been on a road trip. But it's good to have him around the guys and making him feel part of the team."

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