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At the Rink: Sabres at Lightning

by Corey Long

TAMPA -- The Tampa Bay Lightning, without defenseman Victor Hedman, will get a look at the Buffalo Sabres and top rookie Jack Eichel for the second time in a week when the teams play at Amalie Arena on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; MSG-B, BELL TV, SUN).

Each will look a little different than last Saturday, when the Lightning (3-2-0) won 4-1 in Buffalo.

The Sabres (1-3-0) welcomed the return of captain Brian Gionta on Thursday in 3-2 loss against the Florida Panthers after missing the first three games with a lower-body injury. In addition to Gionta's return, Sabres coach Dan Bylsma will mix up the lines for Saturday.

Forward Sam Reinhart will move from center to wing on the top line with Ryan O'Reilly and Tyler Ennis. Zemgus Girgensons moves from left wing to center the third line with Matt Moulson and Marcus Foligno.

Eichel, the second pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, had one shot on goal in 18:56 of ice time against the Lightning last week. However, he could find more space on the ice with Hedman and Nikita Nesterov out of the lineup for Tampa Bay.

Hedman, who is day-to-day with an undisclosed injury, was assigned to Eichel for the majority of the first game. Nesterov is suspended for two games by the NHL Department of Player Safety for boarding Dallas Stars forward Curtis McKenzie on Thursday.

The Lightning called up Slater Koekkoek from Syracuse of the American Hockey League on Friday.

"[Koekkoek] can really skate so if he ever does put himself in danger he can get himself out of it," Cooper said. "Positionally he's in the right spots all the time. For him eventually it's going to be getting NHL reps. He deserves this opportunity."

The Lightning will try to avoid a three-game losing streak before going on a four-game road trip against Central Division teams next week. Tampa Bay did not lose three games in a row last season until the Stanley Cup Final against the Chicago Blackhawks.

Here are the projected lineups:


Sam Reinhart - Ryan O'Reilly - Tyler Ennis

Evander Kane - Jack Eichel - Brian Gionta

Matt Moulson - Zemgus Girgensons - Marcus Foligno

Nicolas Deslauriers - David Legwand - Jamie McGinn

Josh Gorges - Rasmus Ristolainen

Mike Weber - Cody Franson

Jake McCabe - Mark Pysyk

Chad Johnson

Nathan Lieuwen

Injured: Robin Lehner (ankle), Zach Bogosian (lower body), Cody McCormick (blood clot), Bobby Sanguinetti (lower body)

Scratched: Johan Larsson, Carlo Colaiacovo


Jonathan Drouin - Steven Stamkos - Ryan Callahan

Ondrej Palat - Tyler Johnson - Nikita Kucherov

Alex Killorn - Valtteri Filppula - Erik Condra

J.T. Brown - Brian Boyle - Cedric Paquette

Jason Garrison - Anton Stralman

Braydon Coburn - Matthew Carle

Andrej Sustr - Slater Koekkoek

Ben Bishop

Kevin Poulin

Injured: Andrei Vasilevskiy (blood clot), Victor Hedman (undisclosed)

Scratched: Vladislav Namestnikov

Status report: Cooper reiterated he didn't believe Hedman's injury would be long term and that Killorn (upper body) would play if he looked good in warmups. … Legwand will likely return to the lineup after being a healthy scratch Thursday against the Florida Panthers.

Who's hot: Stamkos scored two goals in the 5-3 loss to the Stars. … McCabe scored his first NHL goal against the Panthers.

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