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At the Rink: Lightning at Sabres

by Joe Yerdon / NHL.com

BUFFALO -- The Buffalo Sabres will have one of their leaders on defense back against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

Defenseman Josh Gorges will return to the lineup after missing the past seven games with a knee injury. He'll play on the top pairing alongside Tyler Myers. The Sabres have won five of their past six games and swept a home-and-home series against the Canadiens on Friday and Saturday.

"Anytime you're out and you haven't played in a while, I think the biggest thing, and it doesn't matter how old you get or how many games you've played, is calming the nerves," Gorges said. "Especially when the guys have been playing well and winning. You don't want to come in and mess that up. It's about staying in the moment, taking it one shift at a time."

Gorges was injured Nov. 11 against the St. Louis Blues. His initial prognosis was a 4-6 week absence. He's made it back in three weeks but missed out on playing at Montreal, his former team, on Saturday.

"It [stinks]," Gorges said. "Obviously I've been looking forward to that game for a long time. Even when I got hurt, that was my goal date to come back, was for that game. That's life. You deal with it and you move on."

Goaltender Jhonas Enroth will make his fifth consecutive start and play in his sixth straight game; the Sabres are 4-1-0 in those games.

The Sabres will face a Lightning team that has the best record in the Eastern Conference and has the best offense in the NHL. The Lightning are coming off a 6-3 win against the New York Rangers on Monday. Tampa Bay had an optional skate Tuesday.

"There might be a few [lineup changes]," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "We've got a few guys that are game-time decisions. We'll probably have more than 20 in warm-ups tonight so we'll see what happens. We are changing things up. It's just back-to-back. We're not pulling guys out because guys are playing poorly; we're pulling guys out to keep things fresh and everybody's earned a right to play. It's just the nature of the beast."

Cooper said Evgeni Nabokov will start in goal. It will be his sixth start of the season and fifth game on the road. He's 2-3-0 with an .870 save percentage.

Here are the projected lineups:

LIGHTNING

Alex Killorn - Steven Stamkos - Ryan Callahan

Ondrej Palat - Tyler Johnson - Nikita Kucherov

Jonathan Drouin - Valtteri Filppula - Brett Connolly

Brenden Morrow - Brian Boyle - Cedric Paquette

Victor Hedman - Anton Stralman

Jason Garrison - Andrej Sustr

Matt Carle - Radko Gudas

Evgeni Nabokov

Ben Bishop

Scratched: Mark Barberio, J.T. Brown, Vladislav Namestnikov

Injured: None

SABRES

Matt Moulson - Zemgus Girgensons - Tyler Ennis

Brian Flynn - Torrey Mitchell - Brian Gionta

Nicolas Deslauriers - Marcus Foligno - Chris Stewart

Cody Hodgson - Patrick Kaleta

Josh Gorges - Tyler Myers

Nikita Zadorov - Rasmus Ristolainen

Tyson Strachan - Mike Weber

Andre Benoit

Scratched: None

Injured: Cody McCormick (concussion), Andrej Meszaros (concussion-like symptoms)

Status Report: McCormick skated like he was ready to play Tuesday morning but was not cleared to play. The Sabres will use seven defensemen or recall a forward from Rochester in the American Hockey League. McCormick has been going through concussion protocol since being injured Nov. 22 against the Washington Capitals.

Who's Hot: Johnson has two goals and three assists the past three games. … Callahan was held without a point against the Rangers, but has three goals and three assists in his past four games. … Stewart has three goals this season, but two have come in the past three games. … Ennis has four points in the past four games.

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