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At the Rink: Oilers at Sabres

by Joe Yerdon

BUFFALO -- The Buffalo Sabres have found their hot hand in goal with Michal Neuvirth.

Sabres coach Ted Nolan said Neuvirth will start against the Edmonton Oilers on Friday at First Niagara Center. This will be Neuvirth's third consecutive start and sixth in the past nine games.

"He's been real good for us," Nolan said. "Jhonas [Enroth] has been good too. Right now with the time and between games, Neuvirth had two days off between the games. Last time Jhonas played well was back-to-back. Those back-to-backers are tough and we'll see how [Friday] goes and see how he feels after the game. Neuvirth's been playing very well for us. He's almost like a sponge with those rebounds; there's no rebounds hardly at all. He's played very well for us."

In six starts Neuvirth is 2-3-1 with a .925 save percentage and a 2.60 goals-against average.

"When games get put on the line, remember Grant Fuhr," Nolan said. "He let three and four and five goals in but he'd never let that goal that beat you in. [Neuvirth] is in that similar mold. If you stay close and you're close, it's going to be tough to get one by him and he's proven that so far. So hopefully, knock on wood, he'll keep on doing that."

Enroth's last start came in the Sabres' 5-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Nov. 1. Since then Neuvirth led the Sabres to a 3-2 shootout in a win against the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday and a 2-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday.

"The one thing we wanted to do here from Day One is earned and just not given," Nolan said. "So these guys are earning their starts and they're competing with one another, which is great. Someone's going to win at the end. The way we're going right now, we're going to need both of them."

The Sabres will make one change to the lineup, with defenseman Andre Benoit playing after being a healthy scratch the past two games. He'll replace Tyson Strachan.

"He's got some offensive flair to his game," Nolan said of Benoit. "I thought early he took too many chances offensively and I think he was trying too hard so now he has a chance to sit back and reflect on that a little bit. He's a very gifted offensive player that can make that first pass and send guys off on breakaways and that's exactly what our next stage of our game is. We have to spring guys from the neutral zone."

The Oilers did not hold a morning skate Friday after losing 5-2 to the Boston Bruins on Thursday. Viktor Fasth is expected to start in goal against the Sabres after Ben Scrivens made 27 saves in the loss to the Bruins.

Here are the projected lineups:


Benoit Pouliot - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Jordan Eberle

Teddy Purcell - Leon Draisaitl - Nail Yakupov

David Perron - Mark Arcobello - Iiro Pakarinen

Matt Hendricks - Boyd Gordon - Jesse Joensuu

Nikita Nikitin - Justin Schultz

Oscar Klefbom - Mark Fayne

Keith Aulie - Jeff Petry

Viktor Fasth

Ben Scrivens

Scratched: Luke Gazdic, Martin Marincin

Suspended: Andrew Ference

Injured: Taylor Hall (knee)


Torrey Mitchell - Tyler Ennis - Chris Stewart

Nicolas Deslauriers - Cody Hodgson - Drew Stafford

Matt Moulson - Zemgus Girgensons - Brian Gionta

Johan Larsson - Cody McCormick - Brian Flynn

Josh Gorges - Tyler Myers

Rasmus Ristolainen - Andrej Meszaros

Nikita Zadorov - Andre Benoit

Michal Neuvirth

Jhonas Enroth

Scratched: Tyson Strachan, Mike Weber

Injured: Marcus Foligno (undisclosed), Patrick Kaleta (jaw)

Status report: Marincin was a healthy scratch against the Bruins but could be back in against the Sabres. … Ference is serving the final game of a three-game suspension. … Foligno skated Friday and could play Saturday against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Who's hot: Eberle has one goal and two assists in the past four games. … Stafford has two goals and an assist in the past four games, with both goals coming on the power play. … Ennis has a goal and three assists in his past four games.

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