By: David Kolb
BUFFALO SABRES (16-16-9) @ CAROLINA HURRICANES (19-15-7)
THIRD AND FINAL
Tonight the Sabres travel to Carolina to face the Hurricanes for the third and final meeting of the regular season. The Canes’ have taken each of the first two games of the season series, defeating the Sabres 2-1 in a shootout on Dec. 17 and 3-1 in Buffalo on Dec. 22. The Sabres dropped the first half of their back-to-back set Thursday in Tampa, falling 4-2 to the Lightning. Meanwhile, Carolina has won their last two games, including an impressive 5-3 win over the first place Columbus Blue Jackets.
EICHEL BACK ON THE SCORESHEET
Jack Eichel scored a goal Thursday vs. Tampa, giving him three goals in his past five games, however has yet to put up a point against the Hurricanes this season in two games. Eichel has shown flashes of brilliance and has scored eight goals with six assists for 14 points in only 19 games this season.
The Sabres defense, most notably Rasmus Ristolainen, will have their hands full with the Hurricanes’ center Victor Rask, who is currently playing the best hockey of his season, scoring five points in his past four games. Against the Blue Jackets Tuesday, the skilled 23-year-old scored a goal and added two assists, improving his season totals to 12 goals and 19 assists for 31 points in 41 games.
Evander Kane scored Thursday vs. the Lightning, giving him 11 goals and 16 points in 30 games this season. The 25-year-old carries a hot-hand into tonight’s tilt, scoring a goal in two games vs. Carolina, and notching three goals in his past five contests. Since Dec. 1, Kane has been one of the Sabres’ top skaters, potting 10 goals and two assists in 18 contests.
SKINNER THE SCORER
Hurricanes’ top scorer Jeff Skinner scored his 15th goal of the season, then added two assists and was a plus-3 in Carolina’s 5-3 win over Columbus on Tuesday. Skinner has five points in his last four contests, and has produced 15 goals and 17 assists for 32 points in 40 games, including a goal in two tilts vs. the Sabres.