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Sabres' Eichel to miss game vs. Maple Leafs

Buffalo rookie has flu; Gauthier to debut for Toronto

by Mike Brophy / NHL.com Correspondent

SABRES (29-33-10) at MAPLE LEAFS (24-35-11)

TV: 7 p.m. ET; CBC, CITY, MSG-B, NHL.TV

TORONTO -- Buffalo Sabres rookie Jack Eichel has the flu and won't be in the lineup Saturday against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre.

Eichel, who leads the Sabres with 22 goals and is second with 49 points, was one of only two Sabres to have played in all 72 games this season; defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen is the other.

On the opposite side, Frederik Gauthier will be the 11th member of the Maple Leafs to make his NHL debut this season.

Gauthier, a 6-foot-5, 215-pound center, was the Maple Leafs' first-round pick (No. 21) in the 2013 NHL Draft. He has five goals and 16 points in 52 games with Toronto of the American Hockey League this season. Gauthier and forward Josh Leivo were recalled from the Marlies to replace injured forwards Peter Holland and Leo Komarov as well as center Brooks Laich, who has taken a personal leave.

The biggest knock on Gauthier is his skating, but he has worked very hard with Maple Leafs skating coach Barb Underhill and there has been a noticeable improvement this season.

"We adjusted my skates and working with her has helped me a lot," said Gauthier, who represented Canada twice in the IIHF World Junior Championship. "Working with Barb has paid off so far."

Gauthier has been a defensive presence with the Marlies and though Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said he is still at least a year away from being a serious candidate to play full-time in the NHL, Gauthier said he expects to fit in when he faces the Sabres.

"I will play hard in the corners and play good defense," Gauthier said. "I try to create a little on offense too. I think I read the play well and I expect to be able to do that up here. They have not said what they expect from me, but whatever I have to do, I'll do it. Playing in the NHL means a lot to me. Every guy wants to play in this League and I'm going to do my best and see what happens."

The Maple Leafs have been decimated by injuries. Among those currently on the roster who have spent significant time with the Marlies are forwards Zach Hyman, Connor Brown, William Nylander and Nikita Soshnikov, and defensemen Rinat Valiev and Viktor Loov.

Nylander said he has noticed a big improvement in Gauthier's game this season.

"It's good to have him here," Nylander said. "He'll bring lots of hard work to the table. He's gotten a lot faster and it's always fun to see when guys improve over the year. He's a big guy who is heavy, so I think he'll do well on the draw. He's reliable in the corners and creates opportunities for his linemates."

Babcock said the first thing that stands out about Gauthier is his size.

"Every time I looked at him today at him he was 6-foot-5," Babcock said. "I like that. He's a great big man; the question is always going to be pace. Can he get up and down the rink? Every coach he has had plays him all the time. That must mean he's good defensively and he has a good hockey IQ. You don't play the minutes he did in junior and the World Junior and this season with the Marlies unless you have good hockey sense."

Here are the projected lineups:

SABRES
Evander Kane - Ryan O'Reilly - Nicolas Deslauriers
Zemgus Girgensons - David Legwand - Sam Reinhart
Marcus Foligno - Johan Larsson - Brian Gionta
Daniel Catenacci - Cal O'Reilly - Matt Moulson
 
Josh Gorges - Rasmus Ristolainen
Jake McCabe - Zach Bogosian
Mark Pysyk - Carlo Colaiacovo
 
Chad Johnson
Nathan Lieuwen
 
Injuries: Jack Eichel (illness), Robin Lehner (ankle), Cody Franson (neck), Tyler Ennis (concussion), Cody McCormick (blood clot)
Scratches: None
 
MAPLE LEAFS
Michael Grabner - Nazem Kadri - Nikita Soshnikov
Zach Hyman - William Nylander - PA Parenteau
Josh Leivo - Frederik Gauthier - Connor Brown  
Colin Greening - Ben Smith - Milan Michalek

Morgan Rielly - Martin Marincin  
Jake Gardiner - Connor Carrick  
Rinat Valiev - Frank Corrado

Garret Sparks
Jonathan Bernier
 
Injured: Leo Komarov (lower body), Stephane Robidas (lower body), James van Riemsdyk (fractured foot), Joffrey Lupul (sports hernia surgery), Byron Froese (lower body), Matt Hunwick (sports hernia), Tyler Bozak (concussion), Brad Boyes (upper body), Viktor Loov (upper body), Peter Holland (upper body), Leo Komarov (lower body)
Scratched: None

Status report: Colaiacovo returns to the lineup after missing a 3-1 win Friday against the Ottawa Senators. Defenseman Chad Ruhwedel was assigned to Rochester of the American Hockey League. … Babcock said Komarov is close to being ready to play. He also said Bozak, who has missed 19 games with a concussion could play Tuesday.

Who's hot: Kane has four assists in four games. … Eichel has two goals and three points in three games. … Bogosian has goals in back-to-back games. … Hyman has four points in six games. … Grabner has points in three straight games.

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