BUFFALO – The Philadelphia Flyers have points in eight consecutive games and will have two regulars returning to the lineup when they face the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday.
Forward Michael Raffl and defenseman Braydon Coburn will play against the Sabres. Raffl has been out since Jan. 20, a span of seven games, when he battled a case of pneumonia. Coburn has been out since Jan. 12 with a broken foot and missed 12 games.
"They're two big players for us and two good players," Flyers coach Craig Berube said. "It's good to get them back for sure."
With Coburn back, the Flyers will sit defensemen Andrew MacDonald and Carlo Colaiacovo. MacDonald missed the Flyers' 4-3 overtime loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday because of a death in the family. Berube said MacDonald needed some practice time and Coburn's return allowed him to sit him out for a game.
The Flyers' point streak has them within seven points of the Boston Bruins for the second Eastern Conference wild-card spot of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"Everything that we do around here is for the team," Coburn said. "For me personally it's just about getting ready to come back and being the best when I do get back. For us, it's all about keeping the wheels going. We've got points we've got to make up and games we've got to win, so that doesn't change."
Raffl will center the Flyers' third line between R.J. Umberger and Ryan White. Overcoming pneumonia made recovery a bit more difficult.
"Your lungs are really painful," Raffl said. "It's not like a broken foot where you know where I can handle that pain. I never knew if it would come back or not. It's kind of a different feeling… You still feel it a little bit, but I can handle it."
Goalie Ray Emery will start for the Flyers
The Sabres will be without defenseman Josh Gorges and forward Patrick Kaleta against the Flyers. Both players are out with lower-body injuries. Gorges hasn't skated since the Sabres lost 2-1 to the Ottawa Senators on Feb. 10. How long Gorges will be out has not been determined.
"I'm not too sure about that," Sabres coach Ted Nolan said. "We'll see. He's going to get a second opinion."
Andre Benoit will take Gorges' place and be paired up with newcomer Zach Bogosian. Bogosian was acquired from the Winnipeg Jets along Evander Kane on Wednesday in a trade that sent Tyler Myers and Drew Stafford to Winnipeg.
"He's going to get thrown right into the fire," Nolan said. "He's going to play a lot of minutes. Plus he's a big boy. I'm quite sure he's used to those minutes. Maybe he's going to look at it a whole different way. Maybe he wasn't getting as much minutes as he thought before. So there won't be [any] question about minutes here."
Johan Larsson was recalled from Rochester of the American Hockey League on Sunday to replace Kaleta.
"I've been here before," Larsson said. "I've just got to go up, play hard, compete, and try to win."
In 40 career games with the Sabres, Larsson has one goal and five assists.
"Just play," Nolan said. "Players got to play, and don't worry about [anything] else, who you're playing with and how much you're playing. Just play."
Goalie Michal Neuvirth will start for the Sabres
Here are the projected lineups:
Brayden Schenn – Claude Giroux – Jakub Voracek
Matt Read – Sean Couturier – Wayne Simmonds
R.J. Umberger – Michael Raffl – Ryan White
Chris VandeVelde – Pierre-Edouard Bellemare – Vincent Lecavalier
Nicklas Grossmann – Mark Streit
Michael Del Zotto – Luke Schenn
Nick Schultz – Braydon Coburn
Scratched: Carlo Colaiacovo, Andrew MacDonald
Injured: Steve Mason (knee), Kimmo Timonen (blood clots)
Suspended: Zac Rinaldo
Chris Stewart – Zemgus Girgensons – Tyler Ennis
Matt Moulson – Torrey Mitchell – Brian Gionta
Marcus Foligno – Brian Flynn – Nicolas Deslauriers
Johan Larsson – Matt Ellis – Cody Hodgson
Andre Benoit – Zach Bogosian
Nikita Zadorov – Rasmus Ristolainen
Mike Weber – Andrej Meszaros
Scratched: Tyson Strachan
Injured: Josh Gorges (lower body), Patrick Kaleta (lower body), Cody McCormick (blood clot), Evander Kane (shoulder)
Status report: Nolan said Kaleta's injury could have him out a while. Stewart participated fully in the morning skate Sunday. He missed Sabres practice Saturday battling the flu.
Who's hot: Zadorov has six assists in the past six games… Read and Simmonds each have three-game point streaks. Read has a goal and two assists and Simmonds has three goals and two assists during that span.