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Lehner gets the start as Sabres host Penguins

Okposo, Carrier resume skating

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber / Sabres.com

It's been 16 days since the Buffalo Sabres played in Pittsburgh on a Sunday afternoon and lost one of their toughest games of the season, one in which they ran out to a 3-0 lead against the reigning Stanley Cup champions only to fall 4-3 in the end.

A win that day would have given the Sabres points in three straight games; instead it stood as one of six losses in a stretch of seven. It's a game that still sits fresh in the Sabres' minds as they host the Penguins at KeyBank Center tonight.

 Video: Preview: PIT at BUF (3/21/17)

"I don't know how many days ago it was. It feels pretty recent," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. "You feel like you've let a huge opportunity slip away when they get the third and fourth one there at the end of the game, so it was a bitter and painful pill, that game, I think for everybody."

Even having lost that game in Pittsburgh, the Sabres can still take the season series with a win tonight. They beat the Penguins 2-1 in a shootout at home back on Nov. 19, when Jack Eichel was still absent from the lineup with his high-ankle sprain and Evander Kane was finding his footing following a rib injury. 

Both teams will be without key players this time around. The Penguins are without Evgeni Malkin, who ranks second in the League (to teammate Sidney Crosby) with 1.16 points per game, as well as defensemen Olli Maatta and Kris Letang. 

The Sabres, meanwhile, are short four defensemen, which led to recalls for Casey Nelson and Brady Austin ahead of Tuesday's game in Detroit. It was the NHL debut for Austin, and he'll be back in the lineup to make his home debut tonight. 

"He's not a highly heralded guy, he doesn't have highly heralded skill. He doesn't have the flash of a Brendan Guhle or that type of pedigree when it comes to him," Bylsma said. "He's a big-body guy, he's got to play a physical brand of style, and that's what he's got to be for him to have an opportunity to play in this league. I thought he did a pretty good job of that right of the hop in the game."

There's still plenty of skill to watch in this matchup, however, namely between Eichel and Crosby. Eichel scored a goal on Tuesday to raise his season total to 50 points, and he's second only to Patrick Kane with 29 points since Feb. 1. 

Crosby, meanwhile, is the NHL's reigning Second Star of the Week after scoring six goals and eight points in three games, including a hat trick against Florida on Sunday.

The Penguins are expected to start Matt Murray in net. Murray allowed all three first-period goals in the last meeting between the two teams, before Marc-Andre Fleury relieved him to begin the second and shut the door the rest of the way.

Robin Lehner will start in net again for the Sabres after making 34 saves in Detroit on Thursday.

Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with the Tops Pregame Show on MSG-B, or you can listen live on WGR 550. The puck drops at 7 p.m.

 

Projected lineup

90 Ryan O'Reilly - 15 Jack Eichel - 63 Tyler Ennis
9 Evander Kane - 28 Zemgus Girgensons - 12 Brian Gionta
26 Matt Moulson - 23 Sam Reinhart - 56 Justin Bailey
82 Marcus Foligno - 71 Evan Rodrigues - 52 Hudson Fasching

4 Josh Gorges - 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
67 Brady Austin - 47 Zach Bogosian
29 Jake McCabe - 34 Casey Nelson

40 Robin Lehner
31 Anders Nilsson 

 

Injury updates 

Bylsma announced that Kyle Okposo and William Carrier have returned to the ice for conditioning skates and that both might join the team for practice within the next week. Okposo, who has 43 points in 63 games in his first season as a Sabre, has missed nine games since March 4 with an injury to his ribs.

Carrier, meanwhile, has missed 23 games since Feb. 4 with a bone bruise on his knee. He's scored six points (4+2) in 35 games this season, his first in the NHL.

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