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At the Rink: Senators at Sabres

by Joe Yerdon

BUFFALO -- Buffalo Sabres forward Jack Eichel is ready to make his NHL debut against the Ottawa Senators on Thursday, but captain Brian Gionta will have to wait to start his season.

Gionta will miss the Sabres opener because of a lower-body injury he sustained after practice Tuesday. Gionta did not practice Wednesday and was not on the ice Thursday for the morning skate.

"He could probably gut it out," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. "We just don't want to put ourselves in a situation where we go from day-to-day to week-to-week."

With Gionta out, Bylsma has changed his forward lines around a bit. Left wing Matt Moulson will play on the first line with center Ryan O'Reilly and right wing Tyler Ennis, and left wing Evander Kane will play on a line with Eichel and right wing Sam Reinhart.

"[Reinhart] is one of those players you can stick in anywhere," Eichel said. "Anytime in the game he can kill penalties, play on your power play. He can play anywhere: wing, center. It speaks to the versatility of him and his adaptability. He's a great player to play with, he's super smart. He makes the right plays all over the ice. And for me it's good to have him on my line, have Kane on my line. Both guys can take faceoffs pretty well; both guys can play in the [defensive] zone. So it should be an exciting night."

Goaltender Robin Lehner will make his Sabres debut against the team that traded him. The Sabres acquired Lehner and forward David Legwand from the Senators on June 26 in exchange for the 21st pick in the 2015 NHL Draft.

"When I go into the game I'm not going to know [who I'm playing against]," Lehner said. "I get focused and I'm going to just worry about the puck and not who's over there. But it would be really nice for me with this team to get the first win. And if it would be Ottawa or if it would be whoever else it would feel the same way. Maybe if we win it would be good for me personally too."

Senators forward Clarke MacArthur will be a game-time decision. MacArthur skated on a line with Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Milan Michalek on Thursday. If MacArthur doesn't play, Shane Prince will take his spot in the lineup.

"I think with everything that happened last year, I'm taking a little more precaution. But I feel good," MacArthur said. He missed six weeks last season because of a concussion. "I just missed a few days to make sure of everything. It's nothing serious like last year, that's for sure."

If Prince plays, he'll likely be on the fourth line and Alex Chiasson will slide up to the third line and play on the right wing, moving Michalek to the left wing. Craig Anderson will start in goal.

Here are the projected lineups:


Mike Hoffman - Kyle Turris - Mark Stone

Curtis Lazar - Mika Zibanejad - Bobby Ryan

Clarke MacArthur - Jean-Gabriel Pageau - Milan Michalek

Alex Chiasson - Zack Smith - Chris Neil

Marc Methot - Erik Karlsson

Patrick Wiercioch - Cody Ceci

Jared Cowen - Mark Borowiecki

Craig Anderson

Matthew O'Connor

Injured: Andrew Hammond (groin), Chris Phillips (back)

Scratched: Chris Wideman, Shane Prince


Matt Moulson - Ryan O'Reilly - Tyler Ennis

Evander Kane - Jack Eichel - Sam Reinhart

Zemgus Girgensons - Johan Larsson - Marcus Foligno

Nicolas Deslauriers - David Legwand - Jamie McGinn

Josh Gorges - Mark Pysyk

Mike Weber - Cody Franson

Carlo Colaiacovo - Rasmus Ristolainen

Robin Lehner

Chad Johnson

Injured: Brian Gionta (undisclosed), Bobby Sanguinetti (lower body), Cody McCormick (blood clot), Zach Bogosian (lower body)

Scratched: Matt Donovan, Jake McCabe

Status report: Gionta could be available Saturday when the Sabres host the Tampa Bay Lightning. ... Bylsma said McCabe will skate in warmups but it is not expected he will play. … With MacArthur back on the ice, Ottawa sent forward Matt Puempel to Binghamton of the American Hockey League on Wednesday.

Who's hot: Eichel had two goals and six points in four games during the preseason. Each of his goals came shorthanded.

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