The only two teams with a realistic shot at the No. 1 draft pick in this summer's NHL draft will duel tonight when the Buffalo Sabres host the Edmonton Oilers (7 p.m., MSG).
The Sabres (15-31-8, 38 points) and Oilers (18-33-6, 42 points) are firmly entrenched at the bottom of their respective conferences and appear headed toward the top of the draft. The Sabres have three games in hand, though, and a win tonight would go a good way toward their avoiding being the absolute dog of this NHL season.
They will use an Edmonton expat in their effort to do so tonight. Forward Linus Omark has been scratched the past three games but is set to take a spot on the top line tonight. He will skate with Drew Stafford – making a return of his own after a two-game injury absence – and Tyler Ennis. Omark has two assists in 12 games since the Sabres traded for him.
"Of course, it's going to be a fun game," said Omark, who'd mostly been stuck in Edmonton's minor league system prior to the trade. "I know a lot of guys on that team, so hopefully we can win."
The move was made as Buffalo tries to revive its offense in the absence of leading scorer Matt Moulson. He was hurt last week and will be out until after the Olympic break.
Other lineup changes made by coach Ted Nolan have Zemgus Girgensons centering two other players, Phil Varone and Brian Flynn, who themselves have spent time at center this season. And Jhonas Enroth got extra time in net, as he will start tonight. He relieved Ryan Miller in Saturday's humbling 7-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche, giving up two goals on 12 shots in the third period. He didn't take that loss, but he's taken his share this season, going only 1-10-5 on the year.
As bad as tonight's opponent is, the Oilers come in having won three of their last four games. Ben Scrivens has guided the way on gial, allowing only three goals over his past three games while posting a .975 save percentage in that span.
The Oilers will enter tonight's game as a favorite for perhaps the first time all year.
"We're in no position to take anyone lightly," Oilers coach Dallas Eakins said. "I expect Buffalo to come out hard."
Taylor Hall leads the Oilers with 54 points (19 goals, 35 assists). David Perron paces Edmonton with 22 goals. Scrivens is one of five goalies to get time in net for Edmonton this season, as the Oilers allow a porous 3.37 goals per game. Scrivens (9-8-4, 2.03 GAA) is the only one of the group to have a goals-against on the right side of 3.
Tonight begins a stretch of three games in four nights for the Sabres. They host the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday and then visit the Otawa Senators on Thursday. That's their last game before the Olympic break.
Tags: Ben Scrivens, Buffalo, Buffalo Sabres, David Perron, Edmonton Oilers, Hockey, NHL, Ryan Miller, Taylor Hall, Ted Nolan, Tyler Ennis
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