SABRES (14-15-8) AT BLACKHAWKS (23-10-5)
8:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CSN-CH, NHL.TV
Sabres team scope
Center Ryan O'Reilly will return to the Buffalo Sabres lineup after missing four games while recovering from an appendectomy on Christmas Day. O'Reilly practiced Wednesday and participated in Buffalo's optional morning skate Thursday. He got the clearance to return in a meeting Wednesday with coach Dan Bylsma, the athletic training staff, a doctor and general manager Tim Murray. "We just want to make sure he's in the right spot and is OK to play," Bylsma said. "Ryan assured us he was feeling fine." Goaltender Anders Nilsson will start for the second straight game after making 24 saves in a 4-1 win at the New York Rangers on Tuesday. Bylsma said the decision was based partly on Nilsson's performance and partly because goalie Robin Lehner is dealing with a minor injury. "It's not something that would keep him out of the lineup, but he's had some bumps and bruises the last few games he's played," Bylsma said. Forward William Carrier will not play because of an illness that kept him out of practice Wednesday and the optional skate Thursday.
Blackhawks team scope
Chicago Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa participated in the morning skate, was taken off injured reserve, and is expected to return after missing five games with an upper-body injury. "This year, his production's been off the charts in scoring timely goals and big goals," coach Joel Quenneville said. "Just watching him in practice [Wednesday], you can really see what he brings to our team." Hossa, whose 16 goals are tied with Artem Anisimov for the Blackhawks lead, will play right wing on the second line with center Jonathan Toews and Spencer Abbott, a 28-year old rookie who was recalled from Rockford of the American Hockey League on Tuesday. Abbott has played one NHL game, for the Toronto Maple Leafs on Oct. 5, 2013. Goaltender Corey Crawford will start for the fourth time in five games. Veteran defensemen Brian Campbell and Michal Rozsival will be scratched; it will be Campbell's second time as a healthy scratch in four games. Prior to being scratched against the Nashville Predators on Dec. 29, Campbell had played in 423 straight games. "It's not like we're being caught off-guard," Campbell said. "It's a situation where we've got eight [defensemen], so you've got to be ready and got to perform when it's your time."
Sabres projected lineup
Marcus Foligno - Jack Eichel -- Kyle Okposo
Evander Kane -- Sam Reinhart -- Justin Bailey
Derek Grant -- Ryan O'Reilly -- Brian Gionta
Nicolas Deslauriers -- Zemgus Girgensons -- Matt Moulson
Jake McCabe -- Rasmus Ristolainen
Zach Bogosian -- Cody Franson
Justin Falk -- Taylor Fedun
Scratched: Josh Gorges
Injured: Dmitry Kulikov (lower back), Johan Larsson (wrist/elbow), Cody McCormick (blood clots), Tyler Ennis (groin), William Carrier (illness)
Blackhawks projected lineup
Artemi Panarin -- Artem Anisimov -- Patrick Kane
Spencer Abbott -- Jonathan Toews -- Marian Hossa
Ryan Hartman -- Tanner Kero -- Richard Panik
Andrew Desjardins -- Dennis Rasmussen -- Vinnie Hinostroza
Duncan Keith -- Trevor van Riemsdyk
Michal Kempny -- Brent Seabrook
Gustav Forsling -- Niklas Hjalmarsson
Scratched: Brian Campbell, Michal Rozsival, Jordin Tootoo
Injured: Marcus Kruger (hand)
Bylsma said Grant will likely take some faceoffs for O'Reilly. The Sabres have multiple players dealing with minor injury issues, so Bylsma won't decide on a final lineup until game time. Gorges, who missed the game against the Rangers, practiced Wednesday and is questionable. Kulikov is making progress but didn't make the trip. … Rozsival will be scratched for the third straight game and has played just once in the past 10. Tootoo will be scratched for the third time in five games.
Eichel has three goals and five points in the past four games. Reinhart has two goals and nine points in a seven-game point streak. ... Panarin has five goals and 11 assists in the past 11 games. Keith is one assist away from 400 in the NHL. Patrick Kane has three goals and nine points in the past nine games.