SABRES (14-24-3) at HURRICANES (12-24-4)
TV: MSG-B, BELL TV, FS-CR
RALEIGH, N.C. -- The Carolina Hurricanes are hoping for an offensive boost Thursday against the Buffalo Sabres when Alexander Semin returns to the lineup after missing 12 of 13 games because of injury and illness.
The Hurricanes are in dire need of some scoring punch, having scored more than two goals once in the past 17 games. With one goal and six points in 22 games, Semin is emblematic of Carolina's offensive woes this season.
"The expectations haven't changed (for Semin)," Hurricanes coach Bill Peters said. "We've talked all year long. He knows what's expected of him."
Semin will join a line with Riley Nash and Jeff Skinner, who has eight goals in 35 games.
"With that line it's no secret," Peters said. "You've got Jeff Skinner and Alexander Semin on a line together. They're not out there to play against the other team's top line and shut them down. They're there to generate offense and there is an expectation of that."
The Hurricanes and Sabres are the two lowest-scoring teams in the NHL. That distinction does not sit well with either team.
"If you haven't watched our team or haven't been to our games, it's easy to say we're brutal and we're not going anywhere," Hurricanes captain Eric Staal said. "But if you've watched the games and you've seen us compete, we play right, we play hard, we play well. We just have to create more. In this League you need more guys contributing offensively to win games, and we haven't had that."
The Sabres have lost five in a row and are 1-8-1 in their past 10. That skid follows a stretch where Buffalo went 10-3-0.
"We have to play with some urgency," Buffalo coach Ted Nolan said. "Whatever you do, you can't just backcheck to backcheck. You have to backcheck and get in position with a purpose. We need to get some energy and compete in our game. You never know what happens when you do those things."
Forward Drew Stafford is expected to rejoin the team after his wife gave birth Tuesday night. He missed Buffalo's 4-1 road loss to the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday. Stafford was en route to Raleigh during the morning skate. Nolan gave no indication of how he planned to juggle his forwards.
Here are the projected lineups:
Matt Moulson – Zemgus Girgensons – Tyler Ennis
Brian Flynn – Philip Varone – Chris Stewart
Cody Hodgson – Mikhail Grigorenko – Nicolas Deslauriers
Cody McCormick – Tim Schaller – Patrick Kaleta/Drew Stafford
Josh Gorges – Tyler Myers
Nikita Zadorov – Rasmus Ristolainen
Mike Weber – Tyson Strachan
Scratched: Andre Benoit, Andrej Meszaros
Injured: Brian Gionta (head), Torrey Mitchell (lower body), Marcus Foligno (hand)
Eric Staal – Jordan Staal – Elias Lindholm
Nathan Gerbe – Victor Rask – Jiri Tlusty
Jeff Skinner – Riley Nash – Alexander Semin
Brad Malone – Jay McClement – Patrick Dwyer
Andrej Sekera – Justin Faulk
Ron Hainsey – John-Michael Liles
Tim Gleason – Ryan Murphy
Scratches: Brett Bellemore, Andrej Nestrasil
Status report: Liles will return to the Carolina lineup after missing five games with an illness. He takes the place of Bellemore. Nestrasil was activated off injured reserve Thursday but is not expected to be in the lineup. Carolina forward Zach Boychuk and defenseman Michal Jordan cleared waivers and were assigned to the Charlotte Checkers of the American Hockey League.
Who's hot: Ward has a 2.10 goals-against average and .926 save percentage since Nov. 1. Eric Staal has four goals and one assist in his past five games.