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Sabres look to turn grit into offense against visiting Blue Jackets

Hutton will start in net; Okposo out with upper-body injury

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber /

Carter Hutton will start in net for the Buffalo Sabres against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday afternoon. 

Hutton stopped 27 of 29 shots in a loss to Montreal on Thursday, his first start since Jan. 11. He had stopped all four of the shots he faced upon entering the previous game, on Tuesday against Ottawa, in relief of an injured Linus Ullmark in the third period. 

"I thought it was good for him to come in the way he did against Ottawa," Sabres coach Ralph Krueger said. "He was able to, without thinking, kind of get his grove going and we liked his game against Montreal. 

"He certainly gave us the opportunity there. It was a lacking offense versus defense or goaltending that definitely put us on the wrong side of that score. We thought Carter, the work that he's been doing over the last six weeks, is paying off here. He's really where we need him to be for this challenge again."

Kyle Okposo will miss the game with an upper-body injury. The Sabres recalled forward Jean-Sebastien Dea from Rochester on Friday to round out their group of 12 forwards, though Krueger left the door open to dress 11 with seven defensemen. 

Krueger said Okposo is expected to miss "weeks" with his injury, which is not head related. Defenseman Zach Bogosian is also unavailable due to an illness. 

The Sabres are looking for their first victory since returning from the bye week. They still have seven of their next eight contests at home with 10 points separating them from a playoff spot. 

"We have a lot of respect for what Columbus does as a group and how competitive they are and how heavy and hard they play, and we need to definitely put grit into the equation and find gritty paths to the net-front," Krueger said.

"… There's no magic here. We need to work harder offensively here than we have of late because the goals aren't coming easy. So, you need to look for chaos and look for some so-called ugly success before the flow gets back into our group."


Scouting the Blue Jackets

The Blue Jackets have been one of the NHL's hottest teams since early December, having gone 16-2-4 in their last 22 games. Since that stretch began on Dec. 9, they lead the NHL with an average of 1.73 goals against per game and rank third on the penalty kill at 85.7 percent. 

Columbus rode a six-game winning streak into the All-Star break, which led into its bye week. The game this afternoon will be its first in 10 days. 

"Columbus is a team that is experienced, and they have a way to play that I think coming out of the break will be less of an issue for them," Krueger said. "So, we did not make it an issue with the team, I'll be honest with you. We expect a very gritty, high-energy performance from them and it's more about us than about them today."

Pierre-Luc Dubois leads the Blue Jackets with 38 points (15+23), while Oliver Bjorkstrand has scored a team-high 16 goals. Rookie Matiss Kivlenieks will start in net.   


Tune in 

Coverage on MSG begins at 12:30 p.m. You can also listen to the game on WGR 550, with puck drop scheduled for 1. 

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