NEW YORK -- Coming off a spirited 3-2 come-from-behind road win against the New York Islanders on Tuesday, the New York Rangers seemed to be in high spirits during their morning skate Thursday.
That mood was buoyed even more by the presence of captain Ryan Callahan, who skated with his team for the first time since breaking his thumb in a win against the Washington Capitals on Oct. 16.
Callahan wore a yellow non-contact jersey during the skate and is not expected to return to the lineup for at least 7-10 days. But his presence and the energy that comes with it was welcomed by coaches and players alike as they prepare to face the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday (7 p.m. ET, NHLN-CA) at Madison Square Garden.
"It's always good to see players come back. [Callahan] is a big piece of the team," goaltender Henrik Lundqvist said. "I'm not sure when he's going to be ready to play, but it's good to see him out there."
The win on Long Island saw the return of forward Carl Hagelin, who missed the first 10 games of the season after undergoing off-season shoulder surgery. In his first game back, he set up Benoit Pouliot's game-winning goal in the third period.
"Having Hagelin back, as we saw in the last game, brings the skill and the speed that you need in this League to be able to score goals," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "Hopefully he'll continue to find his stride."
With Hagelin back and Callahan close to returning, there was a sense among Rangers players that the team was starting to get healthy after dealing with some early-season injuries.
But Rick Nash remains out after sustaining a head injury against the San Jose Sharks on Oct. 8, and Thursday the team announced center Dominic Moore will miss 7-10 days after straining an oblique muscle in the win against the Islanders. Brandon Mashinter will take his spot in the lineup and Vigneault admitted he would be using a variety of line combinations against Buffalo.
The visiting Sabres are also close to welcoming some missing forwards back into their lineup. Forward Corey Tropp is expected back this weekend after missing the start of the season with a broken jaw sustained during the preseason. He practiced with the Sabres on Thursday wearing a protective facial shield. With Patrick Kaleta returning this weekend from a 10-game suspension, Buffalo could see some serious changes among its forward lines.
"It should push everybody. We've got some decisions to make here coming up," Buffalo coach Ron Rolston said. "You've got players like Corey coming back and Patrick Kaleta's suspension is up on Saturday. So everybody should feel that."
This Eastern Conference matchup will also feature two of the world's top goaltenders going head to head as Ryan Miller starts for Buffalo and Lundqvist starts for the Rangers.
Here are the projected lineups for the Sabres and Rangers:
Matt Moulson - Cody Hodgson - Tyler Ennis
Marcus Foligno - Steve Ott - Ville Leino
Zemgus Girgensons - Mikhail Grigorenko - Drew Stafford
Johan Larsson - Brian Flynn - Cody McCormick
Christian Ehrhoff - Mark Pysyk
Tyler Myers - Nikita Zadorov
Henrik Tallinder - Rasmus Ristolainen
Scratched: Jamie McBain
Suspended: Patrick Kaleta, John Scott
Injured: Corey Tropp (jaw), Mike Weber (upper body)
Carl Hagelin - Brad Richards - Benoit Pouliot
Chris Kreider - Derek Stepan - Mats Zuccarello
Taylor Pyatt - Derick Brassard - J.T. Miller
Brandon Mashinter - Brian Boyle - Derek Dorsett
Dan Girardi - Ryan McDonagh
Anton Stralman - Marc Staal
Michael Del Zotto - John Moore
Scratched: Justin Falk
Injured: Rick Nash (head), Ryan Callahan (thumb), Dominic Moore (oblique)