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Johansson to make 1st NHL start against Red Wings

Larsson to return; Dahlin to miss 2nd straight game

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber /

Jonas Johansson will make his first NHL start for the Sabres when they host the Detroit Red Wings tonight at KeyBank Center. 

Johansson made his debut in relief of Carter Hutton during the second period of Tuesday's loss to Colorado. He allowed a 2-on-1 goal to Mikko Rantanen on the first shot he faced, then settled in to stop the Avalanche's final 13 shots. 

The 24-year-old reflected on his long journey to the NHL after practice Wednesday and said he felt prepared for his next opportunity. He expressed that same confidence this morning. 

"I feel like if I would look at it from the outside, it would feel really huge - and it does feel big, but when you're in the middle of it I try to focus on it like it's any game," Johansson said. "It feels great."

On the injury front, Johan Larsson will be back in the lineup after missing Tuesday's game with a lower-body ailment. Rasmus Dahlin (upper body) will be out for the second straight game while Curtis Lazar (illness) will be a game-time decision. 

Krueger said defenseman Zach Bogosian will be a healthy scratch, meaning the team will dress the traditional 12 forwards and six defensemen. The Sabres will warm up with 13 forwards and determine the scratch up front based on Lazar's availability. 

The team recalled Scott Wilson from Rochester and sent down Jean-Sebastien Dea on Wednesday, which coach Ralph Krueger said was a testament to Wilson's recent play. He scored three goals in his last four games with the Amerks. 

"He's really on a hot streak right now and just the way he's been playing has really impressed us," Krueger said. "We sent him down with a to-do list and it was less against J-S than we don't have a lot of movement right now here within the guys that are set here and we just feel that he has the potential to be a sparkplug for us."


Scouting the Red Wings

The Red Wings have lost nine straight games, beginning with their 5-1 loss to the Sabres on Jan. 12. They have scored more than two goals just once in that stretch and have been shut out in two straight contests. 

They hold league-worst averages in both goals scored (2.04) and goals against (3.81). Their power play ranks 30th (14.5 percent) and their penalty kill ranks last (73.2 percent).

All of that being said, Krueger stressed the need for the Sabres to not overlook their opponent as they aim to rebound from their 6-1 loss to the Avalanche. 

"First of all, we have a lot of respect for the potential of [Detroit]," he said. "They've had a tough run of late but what we do see is there is a danger in their game, in their ability to take advantage of teams if you give them that space. So, you need to play a really good defensive game. 

"But we need to get back to our game above all. It's important to understand you have to respect every team you play in this league. It doesn't matter where you are, at home or away, it doesn't matter where that team is in the standings. On a given night, every team can play to a certain level to earn themselves a win and we have to focus on ourselves."

Detroit has been bit hard by the injury bug, with forwards Anthony Mantha, Frans Nielsen, and Filip Zadina and defensemen Danny DeKeyser and Mike Green all out. Andreas Athanasiou, who scored 30 goals last season, returned from a 13-game absence on Monday. 

The bright spot has been the play of goaltender Jonathan Bernier, who ranks third in goals-against average (1.98) and save percentage (.939) since Dec. 12 (minimum 7 starts).


Number to know: 14 

This one has double significance tonight. Jack Eichel, who enters the contest on a four-game point streak, has recorded 14 points in his last 12 games against the Red Wings. He has tallied at least one point in each of the last seven matchups between the two teams. 

Sam Reinhart, meanwhile, has 14 points in his last 14 games overall after scoring the Sabres' lone goal on Tuesday. He's on pace to finish with 29 goals and 68 points, both of which would be career highs.


Tune in

The game can be seen live on NBCSN at 7 p.m. Dan Dunleavy and Rob Ray will have the call on WGR 550.

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