BUFFALO -- The Los Angeles Kings are getting their forwards back together for their matchup against the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday.
Marian Gaborik skated with Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams during morning skate at First Niagara Center and appears set to rejoin the lineup after missing the past four games with an illness.
“He’s a huge X-factor,” Williams said. “When he’s on his game, he’s as explosive as there is in the game of hockey. Injuries have slowed him a little bit, but the game is all still there. He’s someone other teams have to key on.”
In 15 games this season, Gaborik has four goals and four assists. Seven of his eight points have come at even strength.
The Kings also appear set to reunite “That 70s Line” of Tanner Pearson, Jeff Carter, and Tyler Toffoli. Those three players are the Kings’ top scorers this season, and Toffoli leads the Kings with 20 points. Pearson and Toffoli are tied for the Kings lead in goals with 10 each.
“It's a good challenge for them,” Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. “Last time we went on a long road trip, they lasted three shifts and they haven't played together since. It's about performance and production; it's not about what numbers they wear or how sexy it looks. It's about getting the job done. The most important thing in this league is at the end of the night getting one or two points. Everything else is not relative to the game.”
Jonathan Quick was the first goalie off at morning skate and will likely start. His start against the Sabres in Buffalo on Nov. 12, 2013 ended in overtime when he injured his groin stopping a shot by then Sabres defenseman and current Kings teammate, Jamie McBain. Quick missed nearly two months of action.
The Sabres will go without forward Chris Stewart against the Kings. Stewart will be a healthy scratch for the first time this season. He has three goals and one assist in 27 games.
“Certain players, or all players for that matter, have to play to the best of their ability,” Sabres coach Ted Nolan said. “If not, somebody else will take their place.”
Patrick Kaleta will take his spot on the fourth line with Cody McCormick and Nic Deslauriers.
“He needs to play the way he can,” Nolan said of Stewart. “He’s a big powerful forward and powerful forwards can’t be playing a soft game. If they play a soft game, it doesn’t fit into their makeup so we need him to play the way he can… Hopefully it’ll be a good message for him to sit back and watch and see what he’s missing.”
Defenseman Tyson Strachan will be out again with an unspecified injury. He missed the Sabres 3-2 loss to the Florida Panthers on Saturday. Andre Benoit will take his place. Jhonas Enroth was first off at morning skate and will start.
Here are the projected lineups:
Marian Gaborik – Anze Kopitar – Justin Williams
Tanner Pearson – Jeff Carter – Tyler Toffoli
Trevor Lewis – Jarret Stoll – Dustin Brown
Dwight King – Mike Richards – Jordan Nolan
Jake Muzzin – Drew Doughty
Alec Martinez – Robyn Regehr
Matt Greene – Brayden McNabb
Scratched: Jamie McBain, Slava Voynov (suspended)
Injured: Kyle Clifford (flu)
Matt Moulson – Zemgus Girgensons – Tyler Ennis
Brian Flynn – Torrey Mitchell – Brian Gionta
Marcus Foligno – Cody Hodgson – Drew Stafford
Nic Deslauriers – Cody McCormick – Patrick Kaleta
Josh Gorges – Tyler Myers
Nikita Zadorov – Rasmus Ristolainen
Mike Weber – Andre Benoit
Scratched: Chris Stewart
Injured: Andrej Meszaros (concussion), Tyson Strachan (unspecified)
Status report: Kyle Clifford participated in morning skate but was an extra, and will likely miss the game with the flu.
Who’s hot: The Sabres a 9-1-0 in the past 10 home games against the Kings … Williams has nine points in the past 10 games for Los Angeles with four goals and five assists.