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At the Rink: Blue Jackets at Sabres

by Joe Yerdon / NHL.com

BUFFALO -- The Columbus Blue Jackets will have their leading scorer from last season in the lineup against the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday night.

Center Ryan Johansen, who agreed to terms on a three-year contract Monday, skated between Nick Foligno and Cam Atkinson during the morning skate at First Niagara Center in Buffalo and will be in the lineup after missing all of training camp.

"I've never been in a situation like that before," Johansen said. "Hopefully I won't have to do it again. I'm just thankful it took care of itself and I'm here with the guys."

Johansen led the Blue Jackets with 33 goals and 63 points last season.

"He's such a big part of the offense and big part of this team that there was definitely a void when he wasn't around," Foligno said. "He's come in and really just wanted to work and be with us. We couldn't be more excited to have him around."

After missing camp, there is concern for how fit Johansen is to play.

"That's shift-to-shift in watching him and seeing how he's reacting when he gets back to the bench too," Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said. "You can tell a lot about guys when they get back and they're huffing and puffing and you can see where they're at. We'll be monitoring it and talking as coaches and watching."

Columbus forwards Alexander Wennberg and Marko Dano will make their NHL debuts against the Sabres. The Blue Jackets selected Wennberg 14th and Dano 27th in the 2013 NHL Draft.

"I'm expecting them to come out and play and work hard. That'd be good,” Richards said.

The Sabres will have Sam Reinhart, the second pick of the 2014 draft, in the lineup making his NHL debut.

"I think the one thing he has is his father went through it, his brothers went through it, and it becomes that's what they do as a family," Sabres coach Ted Nolan said. "It's another opening night. Whether you do it 10 times or the first time, you're still pretty excited, you're still emotionally charged. … Inside he'll be jumping around like a jackrabbit."

Reinhart will center a line between Cody Hodgson and captain Brian Gionta.

Here are the projected lineups for the Sabres and Blue Jackets:

BLUE JACKETS

Nick FolignoRyan JohansenCam Atkinson

Scott HartnellArtem AnisimovMarko Dano

Matt CalvertMark LetestuAlexander Wennberg

Jack SkilleMichael ChaputJared Boll

Tim ErixonJames Wisniewski

Jack JohnsonDavid Savard

Fedor TyutinDalton Prout

Sergei Bobrovsky

Curtis McElhinney

Scratched: Corey Tropp, Adam Cracknell, Cody Goloubef

Injured: Ryan Murray (knee), Brandon Dubinsky (abdominal), Brian Gibbons (undisclosed), Boone Jenner (broken hand), Nathan Horton (back)

SABRES

Matt MoulsonTyler EnnisDrew Stafford

Cody HodgsonSam ReinhartBrian Gionta

Marcus FolignoZemgus GirgensonsChris Stewart

Nicolas DeslauriersCody McCormickTorrey Mitchell

Josh GorgesTyler Myers

Andre BenoitAndrej Meszaros

Rasmus RistolainenMike Weber

Jhonas Enroth

Michal Neuvirth

Scratched: Brian Flynn, Nikita Zadorov, Tyson Strachan

Injured: Patrick Kaleta (jaw), Johan Larsson (upper body), Jake McCabe (unspecified), Mark Pysyk (upper body), Matt Hackett (knee)

Status report: Murray is dealing with a knee injury, and even though he skated Thursday he will not play. … The Blue Jackets acquired Cracknell off waivers from the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday but he will not play against Buffalo. … Larsson is on IR with an upper-body injury but participated fully during the morning skate.

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