Tonight we'll see a fresh face with the return of Nino Niederreiter to the lineup. After a multiple-game healthy scratch stint, he will be taking Michael Haley's place and will most likely stay there as the injured Jay Pandolfo (broken foot) will be out for four to six weeks.
Al Montoya will also be getting his third start in a row, something we haven't seen very much this season from any of the goaltenders, but now with Nabakov out with a groin injury we'll see the team return to a more traditional two-goalie system until he recovers. It won't be surprising if we see Montoya get most over the starts over Rick DiPietro, who's had a less-than-ideal start to this season.
Hopefully we'll also see a repeat performance from Grabner, who had a bit of success against Buffalo last season with a hat trick in one game.
With a three-game road trip against some formidable teams—including the Western Conference-leading Chicago Blackhawks and third-place Dallas Stars, ending with a game against Tampa Bay—the Isles desperately need a win tonight to carry some confidence and momentum into this road trip to rack up a few points.
With a solid showing against New Jersey on Friday and Saturday, the team has every reason to beat Buffalo tonight and gain some ever needed points to help recover from the slump they've had in the last few weeks, albeit Buffalo is on a two-game win streak and is a much more complete team this year than when they last faced them.
The Isles must come out hard, avoid their notorious defensive lapses, fore-check hard to win the puck battles in the offensive zone and come out with a solid effort from players besides those on the first offensive line.
These next few games may be the telling story of the rest of the season. Yes, we all know the Isles had a fantastic second half of their season last year, but the change needs to start sooner rather than later if they expect to make it anywhere near the playoffs' lower seeds.