BLACKHAWKS (47-24-6) at SABRES (22-47-8)
TV: CSN-CH, MSG-B, BELL TV
BUFFALO -- The Buffalo Sabres will have defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen back in the lineup against the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday (7 p.m. ET; CSN-CH, MSG-B, BELL TV), but have two other potential lineup questions to answer before the game.
Forward Matt Moulson and defenseman Mike Weber did not skate Friday. Moulson was kept home with an illness and Weber was rested with soreness. Weber didn't participate in the Sabres optional practice on Thursday.
"Moulson woke up this morning not feeling very well," Sabres coach Ted Nolan said. "We'll see. Hopefully he feels better this afternoon. Weber, same thing. He woke up this morning sore, so he got a rest day and we'll see how he feels for the game tonight."
Ristolainen will return to the Sabres lineup after he missed the 4-3 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday with an illness.
"I talked to him this morning, he feels 100 percent," Nolan said. "It was just a little bout of sickness he got over."
The Sabres have won two straight games, something they haven't done since Feb. 24 and 26. Buffalo has outshot its past three opponents and has scored 17 goals in the past five games.
"We're outshooting teams, which we haven't done a lot this year, and we've done that in the last four or five games," Sabres forward Marcus Foligno said. "Maybe it's just the pressure is off now and not making the playoffs. I think everyone is playing and that's just how it goes sometimes. You're playing against teams that are making the playoffs and you're not in the playoffs and maybe they aren't playing their best games against you and you get a little more room out there. You can't take anything for granted in this League."
The Blackhawks are on a three-game win streak and clinched a Stanley Cup Playoff berth in the Western Conference with a 3-1 win against the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday. They're three points behind the Nashville Predators for first place in the Central Division. Chicago beat Buffalo 6-2 on Oct. 11 in their previous game this season.
"You have to step it up," Nolan said. "Anybody in this League, if you don't step up to it you're going to get beat. I don't care what position you're in and particularly when you play top seeds. … They're all good teams in this League and certainly you have to step up."
Only the Blackhawks scratches and injured players skated Friday. Goalie Scott Darling is expected to start against the Sabres.
Here are the projected lineups:
Kris Versteeg – Jonathan Toews – Marian Hossa
Patrick Sharp – Brad Richards – Antoine Vermette
Bryan Bickell – Andrew Shaw – Brandon Saad
Andrew Desjardins – Marcus Kruger – Teuvo Teravainen
Johnny Oduya – Niklas Hjalmarsson
Duncan Keith – Michal Rozsival
Kimmo Timonen – Brent Seabrook
Scratched: David Rundblad, Kyle Baun, Michael Paliotta
Injured: Patrick Kane (clavicle), Daniel Carcillo (upper body), Joakim Nordstrom (upper body)
Matt Moulson – Johan Larsson – Tyler Ennis
Marcus Foligno – Mikhail Grigorenko – Brian Gionta
Cody Hodgson – Matt Ellis – Zac Dalpe
Nicolas Deslauriers – Philip Varone – Patrick Kaleta
Andre Benoit – Zach Bogosian
Nikita Zadorov – Andrej Meszaros
Tyson Strachan – Rasmus Ristolainen
Scratched: Tim Schaller
Injured: Mike Weber (undisclosed), Matt Hackett (lower body), Jerry D'Amigo (facial surgery), Zemgus Girgensons (lower body), Josh Gorges (lower body), Chad Johnson (lower body), Cody McCormick (blood clots), Evander Kane (shoulder)
Status update: Kane worked out Friday morning. He is working on returning from a broken clavicle sustained Feb. 24 against the Florida Panthers. … The Sabres recalled Schaller from Rochester of the American Hockey League. He could be in the lineup if Moulson can't go.
Who's hot: Toews has a four-game point streak with three goals and an assist. Hossa has a goal and three assists during a three-game point streak. … Meszaros has a three-game point streak with four goals and an assist during that time. Dalpe has a goal and two assists during his three-game point streak.