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Sabres' Lieuwen makes first start in familiar territory

by Aaron Vickers

CALGARY -- Buffalo Sabres goaltender Nathan Lieuwen should feel right at home at Scotiabank Saddledome.

Lieuwen will make his first NHL start Tuesday against the Calgary Flames in the same building he made his junior debut for the Kootenay Ice of the Western Hockey League as a 16-year-old almost seven years ago. The 6-foot-5, 186-pound goalie played his first junior game with the Ice against the Calgary Hitmen, stopping 28 of 33 shots in a 5-1 loss Sept. 24, 2007.

He'll look for a more favorable first start with the Sabres.

"This is a great place [for him]," Sabres coach Ted Nolan said. "He sees the Hitmen here. He's played in this rink before. He's played in the West before. It's a good place to have his NHL debut as a starter."

The game, however, won't serve as his NHL debut. He's already had that experience.

After being recalled from the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League on Sunday, Lieuwen was pressed into action that same day late in the second period against the Montreal Canadiens, stopping all 10 shots faced in 21:45 of action after starter Jhonas Enroth left the game with a lower-body injury.

The Sabres already are without goaltender Michal Neuvirth, who skated Tuesday but is not expected to dress.

Defenseman Christian Ehrhoff believes the experience in Montreal will do wonders for Lieuwen in his first start.

"I think that always helps," Ehrhoff said. "When you know you're a starter in your first NHL game it obviously makes the nerves a little tougher, but he just got thrown into the cold water basically and he did really well. Hopefully he can continue that. We as a team, we have to try to keep our shots [allowed] down. We've been giving up a lot of shots lately. Hopefully we can play a little tighter in front of him."

In 32 AHL games, the 22-year-old native of Abbotsford, British Columbia is 17-11-2 with a 2.34 goals-against average and .922 save percentage.

Here is the projected lineup for the Sabres on Tuesday:

Drew Stafford - Tyler Ennis - Cory Conacher

Marcus Foligno - Brian Flynn - Cody Hodgson

Torrey Mitchell - Ville Leino - Matt D'Agostini

John Scott - Matt Ellis - Nicolas Deslauriers

Chad Ruhwedel - Christian Ehrhoff

Rasmus Ristolainen - Henrik Tallinder

Mike Weber - Jamie McBain

Nathan Lieuwen

Matt Hackett

Scratched: Zenon Konopka

Injured: Jhonas Enroth (lower body), Michal Neuvirth (lower body), Tyler Myers (elbow), Alexander Sulzer (upper body), Chris Stewart (ankle), Zemgus Girgensons (lower body)

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