BUFFALO -- When the Buffalo Sabres host the Philadelphia Flyers at First Niagara Center on Saturday, it will be a game that features a pair of teams trying to turn things around.
The Flyers have been shut out in two consecutive games and may be without forward Matt Read who Flyers GM Ron Hextall said has a 24-hour illness. The Flyers recalled forward Jason Akeson from Lehigh Valley of the American Hockey League in case Read can’t play.
“He’s got good skill,” Flyers coach Craig Berube said. “[Akeson] up here at the time we had him up here, he was on the fourth line. It’s not a real position for him to succeed I think, but that’s reality a lot of times. Coming up here he needs to find a niche where he can fit in there.”
At Lehigh Valley, Akeson had eight goals and nine assists in 19 games. He’s played 12 games with the Flyers this season and has no points. Goalie Rob Zepp will make his fourth start of the season.
The Sabres have lost a franchise record nine consecutive games in regulation and have been outscored 39-9 over that stretch. Buffalo is coming off a 7-0 loss to the Minnesota Wild on Thursday night.
“I don’t think there’s much you can learn from a game like that,” Sabres forward Drew Stafford said. “It’s one of those things you have to wash your hands of it and ignore all the noise and move on and be professional about it. It’s extremely hard and challenging to turn the page, but at the same time we’ll be better off with a clear head and making sure we’re getting back to basics.”
The Sabres will scratch defenseman Andrej Meszaros and be without Mike Weber who has a lower body injury. They’ll be replaced by Andre Benoit and Tyson Strachan.
“We talk about that all the time going into games, we have to have good starts; let’s throw some pucks at the net,” Sabres coach Ted Nolan said. “All of a sudden, 10 minutes in, we have one shot. It starts off with the faceoffs. We’ve got to start winning some draws; we have possession of the puck. If we lose a lot of those draws, we’re chasing the puck all the time, especially when we’re in the defensive zone.”
Nolan said captain Brian Gionta will be shut down until the All-Star break as he recovers from a head injury sustained against the Boston Bruins on Dec. 21.
“Right now his health isn’t quite where we want it to be yet,” Nolan said. “That All-Star Game will get him there.”
Michal Neuvirth will start in goal for Buffalo.
Here are the projected lineups:
Brayden Schenn - Claude Giroux - Jakub Voracek
R.J. Umberger - Sean Couturier - Wayne Simmonds
Zac Rinaldo - Michael Raffl – Jason Akeson
Chris VandeVelde - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - Vincent Lecavalier
Andrew MacDonald - Mark Streit
Michael Del Zotto - Nick Schultz
Carlo Colaiacovo - Luke Schenn
Injured: Matt Read (ill), Steve Mason (lower body), Scott Laughton (upper body), Kimmo Timonen (blood clots), Nicklas Grossmann (upper body), Braydon Coburn (foot)
Brian Flynn – Zemgus Girgensons – Chris Stewart
Matt Moulson – Torrey Mitchell – Tyler Ennis
Cody Hodgson – Philip Varone – Drew Stafford
Nicolas Deslauriers – Matt Ellis – Patrick Kaleta
Tyler Myers – Josh Gorges
Nikita Zadorov – Rasmus Ristolainen
Andre Benoit – Tyson Strachan
Scratched: Andrej Meszaros
Injured: Mike Weber (lower body), Brian Gionta (head), Cody McCormick (blood clot in leg), Marcus Foligno (hand)
Status Report: Berube said Read and Akeson will take the warmup and if Read feels well enough to play, he’ll be in.
Who’s Hot: Giroux has five points in the past six games and Voracek has four points in the past five games. … Stewart has eight points in the past 14 games.