Golden Knights at Sabres Preview: Vegas looks to avoid four straight losses

Tonight is the start of an eight-game road trip for the Knights.

The Vegas Golden Knights are set to take on the Buffalo Sabres tonight as they kick off an eight-game road trip that will take them through the bye week and All-Star break.

The road trip couldn’t have come at a better time.

That’s because Vegas’ growing struggles at home recently led to three straight losses, a trend the Knights are hoping to put to rest tonight at KeyBank Center.

Vegas fell behind by at least three goals in all three losses (as well as in the game before that, a 5-4 overtime win against St. Louis), which is a recipe for disaster in today’s NHL. The most recent defeat, a 3-0 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets, was a little different in that Columbus scored one goal per period, but the overall pattern is certainly not something the Knights are looking to perpetuate.

Vegas has fallen in the standings as a result of the recent string of losses. The Knights are currently in the first wildcard slot, though that could change tonight since Arizona, Vancouver, Edmonton and Winnipeg are all on the schedule.

In general, though, Vegas needs to take things period by period rather than worrying about the standings, which are too close to be overly relevant at this stage of the season anyway. But at the same time, the Knights can’t afford to keep losing, which makes tonight’s game a critical one.

The Knights will have their hands full with game-changer Jack Eichel. Eichel is tied for fourth in the league with 27 goals, and he is particularly dangerous on the power play, so discipline will be key for the Knights.

The Sabres are 13-6-3 on home ice this season. They have gone 4-6-0 over their last 10 games and are currently seven points out of a wildcard slot. It’s been a season of tough breaks for the team, which is now dealing with several injuries to key players, including Jeff Skinner and Victor Olofsson.

There’s also been some controversy as two players (Zach Bogosian, Evan Rodrigues) have officially requested to be traded.

Interestingly, the Sabres recently made two trades, sending defenseman Marco Scandella to Montreal to make the blue line a little less crowded and acquiring winger Michael Frolik from Calgary to bolster the team’s top six. Rodrigues has been a healthy scratch for much of the season, though he scored two goals the other night as he was put back into the lineup. Bogosian also scored in that game, a 5-1 win over the Red Wings.

Vegas is 3-1-0 all-time against the Sabres. These teams meet again at the end of February at T-Mobile Arena.

As for tonight’s matchup, it’s unclear what the lines will look like for Vegas, as Keegan Kolesar was sent down to the AHL following Saturday night’s game, and Jonathan Marchessault’s status is up in the air. It looks as though Colin Miller will not be in the lineup tonight for Buffalo.

Here are the projected lineups for both clubs (subject to change):

Buffalo Sabres

Update: Miller will be in the lineup tonight as the seventh defenseman for Buffalo. Here is tonight’s Sabres lineup:

Zemgus Girgensons — Jack Eichel — Sam Reinhart
Conor Sheary — Marcus Johansson — Michael Frolik
Johan Larsson — Curtis Lazar —  Kyle Okposo
Jimmy Vesey — Evan Rodrigues — Rasmus Asplund

Zach Bogosian — Rasmus Ristolainen
Jake McCabe — Brandon Montour
Rasmus Dahlin — Henri Jokiharju

Linus Ullmark
Carter Hutton

Golden Knights

Update: Marchessault will play tonight.

Jonathan Marchessault — William Karlsson — Reilly Smith
Max Pacioretty — Chandler Stephenson — Mark Stone
Tomas Nosek — Paul Stastny — Alex Tuch
William Carrier — Cody Eakin — Ryan Reaves

Brayden McNabb — Nate Schmidt
Nick Holden — Shea Theodore
Nicolas Hague — Deryk Engelland

Marc-Andre Fleury
Malcolm Subban

How to watch

Time: 4 p.m.

TV: AT&T SportsNet, NHL.TV

Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM, 1340 AM