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Game Day Preview #70, Buffalo Sabres @ Los Angeles Kings

A Thursday night game against the Sabres? Let’s get excited!

NHL: Los Angeles Kings at Buffalo Sabres Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Preview: Buffalo Sabres (28-30-12) @ Los Angeles Kings (33-29-7)

How to Watch and What to Watch

After an eleven-round shoot-out loss to the Coyotes, I’m going to be honest -- it’s a little bit of a challenge to sit down and write this preview and not have it be just a collection of GIFs of dumpsters on fire, or the words “Well, what else could go wrong?” copied and pasted about 100 times.

(Don’t worry, I would have broken it up with pictures of Nic Dowd’s dog, or maybe some video of cool Jeff Carter goals.)

But, here we are. The season continues to slog its way to the end, in a fashion that leaves many of us wishing to stop postponing the inevitable -- and others still clinging to hope that everything will turn out just fine.

And it’s even harder to get excited for a tilt against the Buffalo Sabres, who have won two of their last ten and don’t have much going for them lately other than Jack Eichel. Despite missing a significant amount of games this season due to injury, Eichel leads his team in points and is on a real tear right now, with 27 points in 20 games. He’s been held off the score sheet only four times since the turn of the calendar, and has been a bright spot in an otherwise disappointing season for the Sabres.

Of course, Eichel also did this:

(It ended up being the game winner.)

The point is, this isn’t a game that should give Kings fans much angst, under normal circumstances, but this is also a Kings team that inexplicably couldn’t get past the Coyotes. So, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got lots of angst.

For the home team, Tyler Toffoli had an excellent performance against the Coyotes, scoring the Kings’ only goals. Based on your rankings, Toffoli was one of the only players who had a good outing. It’s encouraging to see him heating up now. He’s responded well to a series of games where he started to see his ice time decreased and looked like a much more dangerous player than he has at other points in this stretch of the season. The question of it it’s too little, too late probably isn’t one to dwell on much just yet.

(Dwell on it later, with a drink in your hand, maybe.)

Jonathan Quick starts in net again tonight, leaving Ben Bishop still winless as a King. You can’t entirely pin the losses on him, but with many of us wanting to reserve judgement on a Bishop trade until the season played out, it’s hard to feel positive about it when he hasn’t been able to do the job he was brought in to do -- even if the team in front of him isn’t giving him the goal support he needs to get a win.

The keys to this game are a fast, consistent start, and actually playing a full 60 minutes of hockey. Cliche, yes, I know, but the Sabres aren’t particularly known for their resilience. They’re 7-14-2 when trailing after one, and 7-25-3 when trailing after two. An early lead could be all the Kings need to put this game away, if only they can find the back of the net.

Projected Line Combinations

Los Angeles Kings

Brown - Kopitar - Iginla
Pearson - Carter - Toffoli
Gaborik - Kempe - Lewis
Andreoff - Dowd - Clifford

Forbort - Doughty
Muzzin - LaDue
Gravel - Martinez

Quick
(Bishop)

Buffalo Sabres

Kane - O’Reilly - Gionta
Moulson - Eichel - Reinhart
Foligno - Rodrigues - Fasching
Deslauriers - Girgensons - Ennis

McCabe - Ristolainen
Gorges - Franson
Fedun - Bogosian

Lehner
(Nilsson)

Opposing Preview: Die By The Blade