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At the Rink blog

Sabres' Varone set for NHL debut vs. Hurricanes

Thursday, 01.23.2014 / 12:36 PM

By Joe Yerdon - NHL.com Correspondent / 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

BUFFALO -- The Buffalo Sabres will have a new face in the lineup when they host the Carolina Hurricanes.

Forward Philip Varone was called up from the American Hockey League on Wednesday and will make his NHL debut Thursday.

"I don't think words can describe it," Varone said. "Extremely humbled, extremely excited, nervous. I mean, it's been a long time coming. I've worked my whole life for it. When it finally comes you don't expect it."

Varone was a 2009 fifth-round pick (No. 147) of the San Jose Sharks but never signed with the team. He's spent the past two seasons in the AHL with the Rochester Americans. He'll play Thursday on the third line with Marcus Foligno and Brian Flynn.

"He's a highly skilled player," Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan said of Varone. "The best part about it is he's earned everything he's been given. He came here as a free agent. … He put up some good numbers. He's got some good numbers in junior hockey. He's a highly skilled player and he earned his right here."

Center Zenon Konopka will return to the Sabres lineup. He was scratched Tuesday against the Florida Panthers as punishment for taking three penalties that turned into power-play goals against the Philadelphia Flyers and Columbus Blue Jackets.

"We talked [Thursday]," Nolan said. "[When] he goes to the net he's got to stop before that blue paint. He can't go through it. Especially a player of his nature, you're going to get called for that all the time. He's got to be a little bit smarter on driving to the net."

Jhonas Enroth was the first goalie off at the morning skate and will start for Buffalo.

The Hurricanes held an optional skate Thursday following a 3-2 win against the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday, and defensemen Ryan Murphy and Brett Bellemore and goalies Justin Peters and Cam Ward were the only participants. Ward is on injured reserve and rehabilitating a lower-body injury. Peters backed up Anton Khudobin on Wednesday, while Murphy and Bellemore were healthy scratches Wednesday.

Khudobin is expected to start against the Sabres. He stopped 22 shots in the win against the Flyers.

Here is how the lineups for the teams could look:

HURRICANES

Jiri Tlusty - Eric Staal - Alexander Semin

Jeff Skinner - Jordan Staal - Elias Lindholm

Radek Dvorak - Riley Nash - Tuomo Ruutu

Nathan Gerbe - Manny Malhotra - Patrick Dwyer

Justin Faulk - Andrej Sekera

John-Michael Liles - Ron Hainsey

Mike Komisarek - Jay Harrison

Anton Khudobin

Justin Peters

Scratched: Ryan Murphy, Brett Bellemore, Drayson Bowman

Injured: Joni Pitkanen (heel), Cam Ward (lower body)

SABRES

Matt Moulson - Tyler Ennis - Drew Stafford

Steve Ott - Cody Hodgson - Zemgus Girgensons

Marcus Foligno - Philip Varone - Brian Flynn

Ville Leino - Zenon Konopka - Matt Ellis

Tyler Myers - Henrik Tallinder

Christian Ehrhoff - Mike Weber

Alexander Sulzer - Jamie McBain

Jhonas Enroth

Ryan Miller

Scratched: Linus Omark, John Scott, Mark Pysyk

Injured: Cody McCormick (upper body), Matt D'Agostini (upper body)

I didn't think it would actually work, but it ended up working, so I'm thanking my lucky stars tonight.

— Columbus forward Nick Foligno on scoring the overtime goal after telling the Blue Jackets in the locker room that he would win the game