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Sharpen Up: All the Sabres news you need to know on New Year's Eve

Buffalo plays Tampa Bay tonight at KeyBank Center

by Chris Ryndak @ChrisRyndak /

It's the last game of the 2019 calendar year. Buffalo hosts Tampa Bay tonight at KeyBank Center. It's a 7 p.m. faceoff with pregame coverage on MSG kicking off at 6:30. 

Here's what you need to know. 


Tonight's matchup

From @SabresPR's Game Notes…  

  • This is the fourth and final meeting between the Sabres and Lightning this season.
  • Last meeting: Tampa Bay defeated Buffalo 5-2 in Tampa on Nov. 25
  • The Sabres are 3-6-1 in their last 10 games vs. the Lightning; 2-7-1 at home.


  • If he dresses, tonight's game will be the first of Dalton Smith's NHL career.


  • The Sabres are 11-4-3 (.694) through their first 18 home games of the season, putting the team on pace for its 12th-best home record in a season and its best since 2006-07.


  • Sam Reinhart has recorded 11 points (9+2) in his last 10 games against the Lightning, including at least one goal in five of the last six meetings.


  • Linus Ullmark has won five of his last six games at KeyBank Center, posting a .928 save percentage and a 2.35 goals-against average in those games.


  • With 31 points (17+14) in 18 home games this season, Jack Eichel's 72 points per game at home ranked second in the league entering play Monday. His plus-21 rating at home led the league, with Colorado's Ryan Graves ranking second at plus-15.
  • Eichel has totaled six points (1+5) in his last six meetings with the Lightning, including three points (1+2) in three games so far this season.


  • Victor Olofsson is also playing at a point-per-game pace at home this season, totaling 18 points (9+9) in 18 home games.
  • Olofsson has recorded 20 points (9+11) in his last 20 games. He has failed to record a point in just five of those 20 games and leads all NHL rookies in goals (16) and points (34) this season.


Yesterday's practice

Video: AFTER PRACTICE: Dalton Smith

From the Ice Level Practice Report…

For most, the journey from Oshawa, Ontario to Buffalo takes a bit under three hours. It's a 135-mile wrap around Lake Ontario on the QEW, about an hour past Toronto. 

Dalton Smith's path has been less conventional. The Oshawa native played his junior career in Ottawa, where his combination of offense and physicality made him a second-round draft pick by the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2010. 

Smith's pro career began in Springfield, Massachusetts in 2012. He played parts of two seasons there for Columbus' AHL affiliate, followed by stops in Syracuse, Providence, and Lehigh Valley. He spent the 2016-17 season with the ECHL Florida Everblades and has played with Rochester on AHL deals since. 

The mileage showed in his smile following his first NHL practice with the Sabres on Monday. Not only did it exude gratitude for his first NHL deal, the missing teeth were indicative of the price he paid to get here. 

Video: AFTER PRACTICE: Ralph Krueger

"It's been crazy," Smith said. "I've been pinching myself every once in a while. But, yeah, it's been unbelievable, something I've been waiting for a long time. I'm just very grateful for the opportunity and excited to work as hard as I can as see what happens."

Smith got the call from Amerks coach Chris Taylor on Sunday night. He Facetimed his dad, longtime Flyers forward Derrick Smith, then packed his bags and readied for Monday's practice. Though he was aware of "some interest" from the Sabres, the deal came as no less of a shock.

Read the full report here.


Eichel named to All-Star Game roster

For the third year in a row, Jack Eichel will represent the Buffalo Sabres at the NHL's All-Star Weekend. 

This year's festivities will take place on Jan. 24 and 25 in St. Louis. The Skills Challenge will take place Friday night and the All-Star Game will be played on Saturday. The NHL announced the rosters for the Atlantic, Metropolitan, Central and Pacific division teams this afternoon.

The Atlantic Divsion roster consists of Eichel, captain David Pastrnak (BOS), forwards Tyler Bertuzzi (DET), Anthony Duclair (OTT), Jonathan Huberdeau (FLA) and Auston Matthews (TOR), defensemen Shea Weber (MTL) and Victor Hedman (TBL), and goaltenders Tuukka Rask (BOS) and Frederik Andersen (TOR). 

Eichel, in his second season as Sabres captain, leads Buffalo with 24 goals, 28 assists and 52 points. 

His season has been highlighted by an 18-game personal point streak, which tied the franchise record set by Gilbert Perreault in 1971-72. Eichel recorded 32 points (16+16) in that stretch. 

Read more here.


World Junior Championship update

The first round comes to an end today. 

Yesterday, Team Canada defeated Germany 4-1 to jump back on top of the standings in Group B. Dylan Cozens recorded an assist. 

Team USA captain Mattias Samuelsson recorded one shot and four penalty minutes in 20:15 of action in the Americans' 4-3 win over Matej Pekar and the Czech Republic. Pekar recorded two shots in 9:57 of ice time. 

Today, the Canadians play the Czech Republic, and Erik Portillo is serving as the backup goalie in Sweden's game against Slovakia. 


Saturday's game moved to 1 p.m.

Video: Sabres in 50: Time change for Saturday's game

The Sabres announced yesterday that the start time for the team's game against the Florida Panthers this Saturday, Jan. 4 at KeyBank Center has been changed from 7 p.m. to 1 p.m. The game will be televised on MSG and can be heard on WBEN 930 AM instead of WGR 550 AM due to Bills programming. 

The team will celebrate '90s Night presented by Roswell Park Comprehensive Care Center on Saturday afternoon, welcoming back more than 20 Sabres alumni from the decade.

"We are happy to announce this start time change so that all of our fans can enjoy the Buffalo Bills playoff game on Jan. 4 after our Sabres game," Buffalo Sabres co-owner and president Kim Pegula said. "Buffalo has a great tradition of all of our teams and fans supporting each other, and we want to make sure we can accommodate everyone the best way possible. We would like to thank the Florida Panthers organization for their understanding and willingness to change the start time."

Today in Sabres history

1997: Michael Peca scores two shorthanded goals in a 3-0 win over Ottawa. Peca still shares the franchise record for most shorthanded goals scored in one game by a single player with Don Luce, Bob Sweeney, Alexei Zhitnik and Evander Kane.

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