SABRES (14-16-4) at BRUINS (19-10-4)
TV: NESN, MSG-B, BELL TV
BOSTON -- Buffalo Sabres rookie Jack Eichel will enjoy a homecoming against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden on Saturday.
Eichel hails from nearby Chelmsford, Mass., and last season he attended Boston University. Eichel and the Terriers won the Beanpot and Hockey East championship here. Eichel wasn't sure how many of his friends and family would be attending but did confirm his family will be in a suite.
"This is exciting for me. There's going to be so many family and friends here," he said. "You know growing up, going to the Bruins game, you always dream of playing the Garden. And now I'm going to get to do it for the first time against the Bruins. So I'm just really excited about it."
Eichel has nine goals and seven assists in 34 games. Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said he'll keep a close eye on the 19-year-old to make sure he doesn't get too hopped up. And the Sabres might even harness Eichel's excitement for their benefit.
"You kind of just keep an eye on the situation," Bylsma said. "It may be a situation of being back in his hometown and his first time back here in Boston, where we do ride him."
The Bruins have their own rookie from Hockey East in the lineup. Forward Frank Vatrano has five goals and one assist in 19 games. Last season with the University of Massachusetts, Vatrano and his teammates had their hands full with Eichel.
"He's a great player. He makes things happen," Vatrano said. "He's a phenomenal skater. He can do everything good. He's definitely a player you've got to watch out for on the ice. We're not just focusing on one player tonight; we're focusing on the whole team. We've just got to pay attention when those guys are on the ice."
Here or the projected lineups:
Jamie McGinn – Ryan O'Reilly – Sam Reinhart
Evander Kane – Jack Eichel – Tyler Ennis
Zemgus Girgensons – Johan Larsson – Brian Gionta
Nicolas Deslauriers – David Legwand – Marcus Foligno
Josh Gorges – Rasmus Ristolainen
Jake McCabe – Zach Bogosian
Mike Weber – Cody Franson
Injured: Cody McCormick (blood clot), Robin Lehner (high ankle sprain), Mark Pysyk (bone bruise)
Scratched: Matt Moulson, Carlo Colaiacovo
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – Brett Connolly
Matt Beleskey – David Krejci – Loui Eriksson
Frank Vatrano – Ryan Spooner – Jimmy Hayes
Zac Rinaldo – Landon Ferraro – Tyler Randell
Zdeno Chara – Adam McQuaid
Dennis Seidenberg – Colin Miller
Torey Krug – Kevan Miller
Injured: Chris Kelly (leg), Joonas Kemppainen (upper body), David Pastrnak (foot)
Scratched: Zach Trotman, Joe Morrow
Suspended: Max Talbot
Status update: Bylsma wouldn't confirm his lineup other than Johnson in net and Eichel playing. But based on line rushes it appeared Moulson, who has gone 22 games without a goal, could be scratched. "Matt needs to get back to playing the way he can," Bylsma said. "It's a big part of our team for him to be able to do that. He can add in that area and right now he's off his game in that regard." … Bylsma also said Foligno would be available after missing three games with an upper-body injury. … Gustavsson starts because the Bruins have a back-to-back this weekend. Expect Rask to start Sunday on the road against the Ottawa Senators.
Who's hot: Johnson has a 6-3-2 record in his past 13 games with a 1.71 goals-against average and .942 save percentage. … Spooner has three goals and five assists in his past six games.