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Sharpen Up: March 16, 2017

by Chris Ryndak @ChrisRyndak /

Buffalo and Los Angeles go at it tonight as the Sabres continue their three-game road trip up and down the California coast. Faceoff is scheduled for 10:30 p.m. ET but we'll be on the air at 10 for the Tops Game Night pregame show on MSG.

After beating the Kings 6-3 back on Dec. 13, the Sabres can claim victory over L.A. twice in one season for the first time since 2003-04. The teams have split the only three multi-game season series since then (2013-14, 2014-15, 2015-16).

Here's what you need to know. 

Justin Falk and Justin Bailey were both absent from practice due to injury. Hudson Fasching, a healthy scratch on Tuesday, skated in Bailey's place on a line with Marcus Foligno and Evan Rodrigues. Bailey is questionable for tonight's game.

Falk meanwhile, will miss both the matches against the Kings and Ducks with a calf injury. A defenseman will be recalled from Rochester to take his place in the lineup. Taylor Fedun is the likely candidate. 

The rest of the team, meanwhile, is focused on building consistency over the final 12 games of the regular season. 

From Jourdon LaBarber's Ice Level Practice Report, filed from the Kings practice facility in El Segundo (no one, to our knowledge, left their wallet there):

Video: BYLSMA: After Practice

"We've got to find consistency in the way we play, find an identity that we can build off and that we have as a foundation, as a team and as an organization," Sabres captain Brian Gionta said. "That's what the goal would be coming down the stretch here."

The problem that plagued the Sabres in their loss to San Jose was simple: the Sharks dominated the possession game, which was a product of Buffalo's puck management. The struggles managing the puck, Gionta said, stemmed from a lack of support up the ice. 

"Everyone says make more plays, make more plays, but it's about support," Gionta said. "If the support isn't there, the play's not there to be made. You need to support each other on the forecheck in order to get it back, support each other in the D-zone to get it out. It's little things like that."

"We get glimpses of it each game, the consistency of it isn't there," alternate captain Ryan O'Reilly added. "We're working hard and you see guys, they want to make the right plays, but it's just there's certain times where you just get caught thinking. 

"Everyone's trying to do the right thing, we're working, everyone's trying to get to the right areas but we're just a split second behind. You see how it shows, the way we get hemmed in or the way we're not crisp."


Tonight's matchup

Buffalo's last three trips to Los Angeles have all been 2-0 wins for the Kings so Buffalo is going to try and change that tonight. 

Based on past numbers, they may lean on Evander Kane, Ryan O'Reilly and Rasmus Ristolainen.

Kane and O'Reilly both have 10 points (5+5) in their last 10 games against Los Angeles. Ristolainen, meanwhile, has three assists in his last three games against the Kings.

And when it comes to recent performance, add Jack Eichel and Matt Moulson to the mix.

Eichel has not gone two games without a point since Jan. 31 and Feb. 2. In the 20 games since, Eichel has totaled 27 points (8+19).

Moulson has a point in four of his last five games (1+3) and is seeking his first four-game point streak since he posted points in eight straight games from Jan. 28 to March 9, 2014. 

Back to that other productive trio: 

Kane has 22 points (13+9) in his last 24 games, including 11 goals in his last 16.

Ristolainen has a point in 14 of his last 20 games (2+13).

O'Reilly has recorded eight points (3+7) in his last eight games.


On tap today

Stay tuned for pregame coverage, starting with the Morning Skate at 2 p.m. ET. 

Then stick around for full postgame reaction including highlights and locker room interviews. The Sabres will be in Anaheim tomorrow for a 10 p.m. faceoff against the Ducks. 

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