OTTAWA - Carter Hutton is ready to play and will make his fourth straight start for the Buffalo Sabres tonight against the Ottawa Senators at Canadian Tire Centre.
It was against this same Senators team that Sabres goaltender Linus Ullmark sustained a lower-body injury on Jan. 28, putting Hutton back in the starting role. At that point, a confluence of factors had resulted in Hutton only making three starts since the beginning of December.
Despite having to miss one game because of a family circumstance and multiple practices due to maintenance days, Hutton has taken his opportunity and run with it. He's won his last four starts, posting a .926 save percentage in that span.
"We just enjoy the way he's dealt with everything this season, whether he was in his good times or whether he was having some adversity," Sabres coach Ralph Krueger said.
"He just stays on the job and continues to work at improving. His run of late, you're so pleased because he worked hard for it. Nobody gave him that. He had to fight his way back into the zone that he's in right now, but it's good to have him there, for sure."
Video: PREGAME: Krueger
The Sabres as a team have bounced back from a challenging stretch after the bye week, which began with that 5-2 loss to the Senators. That night opened a five-game segment in which they went 1-3-1 and struggled to re-establish the principles that carried them on a strong stretch leading into the break.
The last five games have been a completely different story. The Sabres are 4-1-0 and have won three straight contests, including a 5-2 win over Toronto on Sunday. They now trail the third-place Leafs, who are in Pittsburgh tonight, by eight points with one game in hand.
"We're always looking at growth," Krueger said. "We liked a lot of things, but we also didn't like multiple things that we looked at yesterday and today. It's about that opportunity of improving our habits on both sides of the puck.
"We gave up some opportunities we would like to defend better against, and we missed some offense that we need to jump on. So, in the end, we love the complete game against Toronto but, again, coaches, we do try to find the areas of improvement and we found some of those."
Johan Larsson will participate in pregame warmups tonight after taking a maintenance day during Monday's practice. Krueger said the team will warm up with 13 forwards and six defensemen and reveal their final lineup prior to puck drop.
Scott Wilson is also available at forward following a recall from Rochester on Monday. Michael Frolik did not make the trip and will miss his second straight game with an illness.
Scouting the Senators
This is the fourth and final meeting between the Sabres and Senators this season. The Sabres won the first matchup in Buffalo on Nov. 16 behind a four-goal outing from Jack Eichel, while the Senators have taken the two most recent meetings.
Ottawa has gotten strong performances out of its top-line trio of Brady Tkachuk, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, and Anthony Duclair in those last two matchups. Tkachuk has four assists in the season series, while Pageau has scored a team-best three goals.
"How we've done in the past against them should only motivate us to see that when Ottawa plays a good and they're on their game, they're dangerous, they have dangerous players, they have a hardworking team," Krueger said. "If there's one thing I credit them with, is they do work hard."
Craig Anderson, who boasts a career record of 19-10-2 and a .929 save percentage against the Sabres, will get the start in net. The Senators will be without defenseman Mark Borowiecki, who is out with an ankle sprain.
Delay of game
Puck drop will be pushed back to around 7:50 p.m. while the Senators retire the No. 4 worn by longtime defenseman Chris Phillips, who holds the record for games played with the franchise.
Sabres forward Curtis Lazar roomed with Phillips during his rookie campaign with Ottawa in 2014-15 and reflected on the experience earlier today.
"He was huge for me," Lazar said. "I was 19. It's crazy, I was talking to him last night, that was six years ago. As a teenager still playing in the National Hockey League, I couldn't ask for a better mentor and a role model, let alone a teammate."
Coverage on MSG begins at 7 p.m. You can also listen to the game live on WGR 550.