ISLANDERS (23-11-0) at SABRES (13-19-3)
TV: MSG+, MSG-B, BELL TV
BUFFALO -- The Christmas break turned out to be a helpful one for the Buffalo Sabres.
The Sabres will have three players back in the lineup against the New York Islanders on Saturday they didn’t have on Tuesday. Forwards Matt Moulson (illness) and Cody McCormick (lower-body) along with defenseman Mike Weber (knee) will return.
"I feel a little fragile this year so far," McCormick said with a laugh. "Hopefully I'll be a little more durable going forward. It feels good to be back in."
Moulson's return to the lineup came after he recovered from the flu. He went through testing for mumps, but was cleared from that.
"I think everyone's worried about [mumps], what's going on throughout the League, but I got all the testing done for it,” Moulson said. "[I] started feeling better Monday … had to wait for tests."
The Sabres do still have four injured players. Brian Gionta is out with a head injury and Marcus Foligno is out with a hand injury they sustained on Sunday against the Boston Bruins. Defensemen Tyson Strachan skated on Saturday and is close to returning from the lower-body injury that put him on injured reserve.
"Matty Moulson is fully recovered, [Patrick] Kaleta is feeling pretty good about himself," Nolan said. “Cody McCormick is back in. Gionta is still going to be out for a little bit, Strachan is pretty close to returning, but outside of that, we're pretty close."
Nolan said forward Marcus Foligno had surgery a couple days ago and will be out at least a month or two. Defenseman Tyler Myers is out week-to-week. Mikhail Grigorenko was recalled from Rochester of the American Hockey League to complete the forward lines. Only 11 forwards skated on Saturday. Grigorenko had three assists on Friday against Lake Erie. Jhonas Enroth will start.
The Islanders came back from Christmas break with an injury of their own. Starting goalie Jaroslav Halak was put on injured reserve with a lower-body injury retroactive to Dec. 20. Kevin Poulin was recalled from Bridgeport and will start against the Sabres.
"The reason why is because he earned it," said Islanders coach Jack Capuano. "He played extremely well in training camp and to me, two-part question, the other one is that he saw some pucks [Friday] night. … [Friday] night he played well at home against Providence, but more importantly, he's a guy who deserves an opportunity."
Poulin started 26 games for the Islanders last season and went 11-16-1 with a .891 save percentage.
"We're confident in our goaltenders," Islanders captain John Tavares said. "They've all proven what they can do at this level. I think we believe in ourselves as a group. We'll try to limit the opposition chances and opportunities and playing the way we need to be successful. I think we just go forward and we have confidence in whoever is in the net."
Here are the projected lineups:
Josh Bailey – John Tavares – Kyle Okposo
Mikhail Grabovski – Frans Nielsen – Nikolay Kulemin
Anders Lee – Brock Nelson – Ryan Strome
Matt Martin – Casey Cizikas – Cal Clutterbuck
Calvin de Haan – Travis Hamonic
Nick Leddy – Johnny Boychuk
Thomas Hickey – Lubomir Visnovsky
Scratched: Eric Boulton, Brian Strait, Matt Donovan
Injured: Jaroslav Halak (lower body)
Matt Moulson – Zemgus Girgensons – Tyler Ennis
Nicolas Deslauriers – Brian Flynn – Drew Stafford
Johan Larsson – Cody McCormick – Patrick Kaleta
Cody Hodgson – Mikhail Grigorenko – Chris Stewart
Rasmus Ristolainen – Josh Gorges
Nikita Zadorov – Andrej Meszaros
Mike Weber – Andre Benoit
Injured: Marcus Foligno (hand), Brian Gionta (head), Tyler Myers (lower body), Tyson Strachan (lower body), Torrey Mitchell (lower body)
Status report: Halak participated in the Islanders skate on Saturday.
Who's hot: Okposo has seven points in his past eight games including three goals. Tavares has six points in the past eight games. … Benoit scored his first goal as a Sabre on Tuesday in the Sabres 6-3 loss to the Detroit Red Wings. Ennis has seven points in his past eight games with one goal.