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Blackhawks seek 4th straight win against Sabres

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Buffalo’s Henri Jokiharju and Chicago’s Alex Nylander will face their former teams for the first time.

Buffalo Sabres v Chicago Blackhawks Photo by Chase Agnello-Dean/NHLI via Getty Images

The Blackhawks will go for their fourth straight win when they open a three-game homestand at the United Center by hosting the Sabres on Sunday night.

Chicago is red-hot with a 5-1-1 record in its past seven games to go above .500 for the first time this season. The high-flying Blackhawks (8-7-4) have scored at least five goals in four of their past five games after a 7-2 victory over the Predators on Saturday in Nashville. Patrick Kane extended his point streak to eight games with a goal and an assist in the game that saw defenseman Connor Murphy return to the lineup after missing 11 games with a groin injury.

Alex Nylander, who netted his first multi-goal game of his career in Nashville with two goals, will face his former team for the first time since he was traded in July to Chicago in exchange for defenseman Henri Jokiharju. Both former first-round picks have performed well with their new teams. Nylander struggled to establish himself in Buffalo’s lineup, but has developed into a first-line winger with the Blackhawks as he’s racked up four goals and nine points in 14 games. Jokiharju, meanwhile, has seven points (two goals, five assists) while averaging 16:39 minutes of ice time in 19 outings with Buffalo (10-6-3).

Nylander’s “landlord” Robin Lehner, who played for the Sabres from 2015-18, won’t face his former team after making 39 saves Saturday night. Chicago instead will turn to Corey Crawford in net against Buffalo. Crawford is 3-4-2 with a 0.12 goals-saved above average and .908 save percentage this season.

The Sabres will also be playing the second half of a back-to-back after beating the Senators 4-2 on Saturday in Buffalo. Sabres captain Jack Eichel carried the team with a career-high four goals to snap a six-game losing streak. Eichel, the second overall pick in the 2015 NHL draft, leads the team with 12 goals and 23 points.

It wasn’t all smiles for Buffalo, who saw forward Kyle Okposo exit the game with 10:35 remaining in the second period with an undisclosed injury. Sabres head coach Ralph Krueger said Okposo will be re-evaluated Sunday, but it appears Buffalo is already counting on Okposo being out since they recalled Tage Thompson from the AHL. Thompson has 12 points (six goals, six assists) in 16 AHL games this season

With Johan Larsson on injured reserve with an upper-body injury, Rasmus Asplund made his NHL debut against Ottawa. Asplund had two shots and two hits in 12:13 minutes, including about a minute on the penalty kill.

Carter Hutton, who was given a Stanley Cup ring by the Blackhawks in 2013 for his one appearance, will be between the pipes for the Sabres. He’s 6-3-2 with a 1.88 GSAA and .913 save percentage.

Series history

The Blackhawks swept last season’s series with a 7-3 win Feb. 1 in Buffalo and a 5-4 shootout victory March 7 in Chicago. Kane led Chicago with six points (two goals, four assists) against his hometown team.

Chicago has won 14 of its last 15 games against Buffalo dating back to Oct. 11, 2010. The Blackhawks’ lone loss this decade was a 5-3 setback March 17, 2018 in Buffalo.

Tale of the tape

Blackhawks — Statistic — Sabres

45.9% (29th) — Corsi For — 49.08% (22nd)

48.4% (26th) — Faceoffs — 46.1% (31st)

3.00 (t-15th) — Goals per game — 3.00 (t-15th)

2.95 (t-17th) — Goals against per game — 2.84 (21st)

14% (27th) — Power play — 22.9% (10th)

78.7% (19th) — Penalty kill — 74.1% (26th)

Lineups

Blackhawks

Saad — Toews — Nylander

DeBrincat — Strome — Kane

Shaw — Kampf — Kubalik

Carpenter — Dach — Smith

Keith — Gustafsson

De Haan — Seabrook

Maatta — Murphy

Crawford

Lehner

Sabres

Olofsson — Eichel — Reinhart

Skinner — Rodrigues — Sheary

Vesey — Mittelstadt — Lazar

Girgensons — Asplund — Thompson

McCabe — Ristolainen

Dahlin — Montour

Scandella — Jokiharju

Hutton

Ullmark

How to watch

When: 6 p.m.

Where: United Center, Chicago

TV: NBC Sports Chicago

Live stream: NBC Sports app