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Sabres go for 4th win in a row tonight in Nashville

Coverage of Buffalo's final game before All-Star break starts at 7:30 p.m. ET on MSG

by Chris Ryndak @ChrisRyndak / Sabres.com

NASHVILLE - The Buffalo Sabres will look to extend their win streak to four games on Saturday when they take on the Nashville Predators. 

Buffalo is coming off a 4-1 victory over the Dallas Stars on Thursday in which they played one of their most complete games of the year. Their defensive effort was strong, limiting Dallas' chances, even when the shot totals made it seem like the Sabres were on their heels.

When asked what aspects of the game against the Stars he'd like to see carry over into the match against the Predators at Bridgestone Arena, coach Ralph Krueger replied, "Everything."

"It's among the top games we've played this season," he said. "Maybe the outside people thought, as an example, we were slipping in the second, but we weren't. We were still keeping them to the outside, and the shot volume was high, but the chances were low." 

The Stars outshot the Sabres 16-5 in the second period on Thursday, but Buffalo maintained their composure and ended up going into the third with a 2-1 lead. They then shut down the Stars attack in the final period and scored two empty-net goals to seal the win.

Video: Ullmark, Okposo lead Sabres to 4-1 win vs. Stars

"Even when they did a push, we were able to weather the storm. I think that's what you need to do on the road," Krueger said. "There's going to be a storm. The storm might come early, it might come mid-game, it might come late. It's how you deal with that. 

"We had so many confirmations of who we want to be in Dallas that you need to take all of that with you and continually want to improve because one of the things I've noticed in the National Hockey League is it gets better all the time. 

"As teams evolve, as the season goes on, the level of play goes up and the only question is, 'Can you go with?' and 'Can you join that group?' That's what we're battling to do."


A look at the opponent

The Predators are evolving in a different way this season. Earlier this month, the Predators replaced head coach Peter Laviolette with former Devils bench boss John Hynes. Under Hynes, Nashville is 2-3-0, and sit six points out of a Wild Card spot. 

Eleven players on their roster have at least 20 points this season. They're led by defenseman Roman Josi, who has 47 points (14+33). 

Flip Forsberg is tops among forwards with 16 goals and 32 points, and Ryan Johansen, who has nine goals and 26 points this year, has recorded points in 11-straight games against Buffalo (3+9).

Pekka Rinne is 6-2-0 in his career against Buffalo with a 1.82 goals-against average, a .942 save percentage and three shutouts. The Predators did not skate on Saturday and have not yet named a starting goalie. 

Defenseman Ryan Ellis, fourth in team scoring, is out with an upper-body injury. 

The Sabres defeated the Predators 4-3 on Dec. 12 in Buffalo, and they can earn their first-ever season sweep of Nashville with a win. 

"They are an angry group right now, the way we see it," Krueger said. "Changes in their game are not dramatic but every coach will bring his own personality with them and hopefully we can find some opportunity in the transitional phase that they're in."


Tonight's lineup

Video: PREGAME: Krueger

Linus Ullmark will make his fourth straight start for the Sabres and his 12th in 14 games. He recorded his career-best 16th win of the season in Dallas. 

The Sabres' lineup will be a game-time decision, and they'll take warmups with 12 forwards and seven defensemen. 

Captain Jack Eichel is on a nine-game point streak in which he's recorded four goals and seven assists. It's the longest active streak in the NHL. After recording points in 17 consecutive team games through November and December, he joins David Pastrnak as the only other player in the league to record two separate point streaks of at least nine games this season. 

Sam Reinhart, who has played almost the entire season as Eichel's linemate, enters the game with 20 points (7+13) in his last 20 games. He's on track to record a personal-best 68 points this season.

He's also third on the team in ice time, averaging 20:26 per game, which is on pace to be a career high. In his four previous seasons, he averaged 16:50 (2015-16), 17:13 (2016-17), 17:06 (2017-18) and 18:57 (2018-19) a night. 

Reinhart has nine points (6+3) in nine career games against Nashville. 

"Sam just augments the genius of Jack in so many ways He understands it. His intelligence and ability to read the game is so high," Krueger said. "But what we love about Sam is how he's embraced the necessity of playing without the puck and staying about it when others are below it, and tracking back hard and working with our D if called upon, being low if Jack's high in the D-zone. 

"In all of those things, Jack and Sam are an amazing duo. Sam's offense is growing out of that defense which is nice to see how he is also able to play the minutes he plays. His conditioning is among the top of our team. He works as hard as anybody on his body and his overall professional package, which is an example for everybody. 

"It doesn't matter how old you are. You can be a leader in many different ways and he is a leader in our group and a very important player."


How to catch the game

Faceoff between Buffalo and Nashville is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET with the Buick Game Night pregame show kicking things off at 7:30. Dan Dunleavy and Rob Ray will call the action on MSG and WGR 550. 

Tonight's matchup will be Buffalo's final game before the bye week. Eichel will be the team's representative in St. Louis at NHL All-Star Weekend on Jan. 24 and 25.

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