BUFFALO -- Cory Conacher will make his debut with the Ottawa Senators on Friday against the Buffalo Sabres on an all-rookie line.
The undrafted rookie will play alongside center Mika Zibanejad and right wing Jakob Silfverberg on Ottawa's second line. Conacher had nine goals and 15 assists in 35 games with the Tampa Bay Lightning this season before being traded to the Senators on Wednesday for goaltender Ben Bishop.
"I think we have a lot of speed on our line. Those two guys that I'm playing with are guys that are very confident with the puck and they're very patient," Conacher said. "They know how to make plays and, like I said, they're fast too, so they'll take pucks to the net pretty quick. So you've got to be ready for that."
Conacher grew up in Toronto and played at Canisius College in Buffalo, so he's expecting a big turnout of fans and family for the game.
"We certainly feel that motivation isn't going to be a concern for him. It might be over the top if it's going to be anything," Senators coach Paul MacLean said.
With Thomas Vanek out of the lineup for a fifth straight game with an upper-body injury and Jason Pominville traded to the Minnesota Wild, there's a void on the Sabres' top line. Interim coach Ron Rolston will look to Nathan Gerbe to fill it.
Gerbe, in his fifth NHL season, has four goals and three assists so far, playing in just about any role asked of him. What's next for him is playing on Buffalo's first line with center Cody Hodgson and left wing Steve Ott.
"He's pretty versatile, so that's probably a good thing. He's been versatile for us. He's played left wing and right wing, and some of his best offensive games have been on the right side," Rolston said.
In Buffalo's previous game, against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Gerbe played on a checking line with Jochen Hecht and Patrick Kaleta, focusing on keeping the other team off the score sheet. He's looking forward to playing top-six minutes.
"It's a good opportunity for me. I'm just going to come in and try to take advantage of it and play hard and try to compete. Hopefully good things happen," Gerbe said. "I'm kind of a guy that can move anywhere in the lineup, and this is a good chance for me."
Rolston said that Vanek is doing better and was a full participant in the Sabres' morning skate, but he would not be ready to play Friday.
Ryan Miller will be in goal for the Sabres, with Robin Lehner in goal for the Senators. Craig Anderson will back up Lehner as he works his way back from an ankle injury that's kept him out of 18 consecutive games.
"We want to make sure he's 100-percent comfortable in the net and he gets enough work that he's going to be ready to go," MacLean said of Anderson. "Robin's played more than adequate for us to this point and he's going to play [Friday]."
Here are what the lineups for Ottawa and Buffalo could look like Friday at First Niagara Center:
Guillaume Latendresse - Kyle Turris - Daniel Alfredsson
Cory Conacher - Mika Zibanejad - Jakob Silfverberg
Colin Greening - Zack Smith - Chris Neil
Matt Kassian - Peter Regin - Erik Condra
Chris Phillips - Marc Methot
Mike Lundin - Sergei Gonchar
Patrick Wiercioch - Eric Gryba
Scratched: Jim O'Brien, Andre Benoit, Mike Hoffman
Injured: Jared Cowen (hip), Erik Karlsson (Achilles), Milan Michalek (knee), Jason Spezza (back)
Steve Ott - Cody Hodgson - Nathan Gerbe
Marcus Foligno - Tyler Ennis - Drew Stafford
Luke Adam - Kevin Porter - Brian Flynn
John Scott - Jochen Hecht - Patrick Kaleta
Christian Ehrhoff - Tyler Myers
Andrej Sekera - Mike Weber
Adam Pardy - Mark Pysyk
Injured: Thomas Vanek (upper body), Ville Leino (upper-body muscle strain), Alexander Sulzer (lower body)