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Okposo to miss Saturday's game with upper-body injury

News and notes from Friday's practice

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber / Sabres.com

Kyle Okposo will miss Saturday's home game against the Columbus Blue Jackets with an upper-body injury, Buffalo Sabres coach Ralph Krueger announced Friday.

Okposo sustained the injury during the first period of Buffalo's loss to Montreal on Thursday. Krueger said the ailment is not head related. 

"He's being evaluated today and we're withholding the final decisions or the final information until we have 100 percent certainty," Krueger said. "But at the moment it's just the game tomorrow and we'll confirm that probably tomorrow." 

The Sabres recalled Jean-Sebastien Dea prior to practice on Friday to round out their group of 12 forwards. Dea previously appeared in one game for the Buffalo, skating 5:53 against Calgary on Nov. 27. He leads Rochester with 30 points in 41 games. 

Buffalo also practiced without defensemen Zach Bogosian (illness) and Brandon Montour (maintenance day). Montour will be available to play Saturday, while Bogosian's recovery is expected to take "a couple of days," according to Krueger. 

Here's how the Sabres lined up Friday:

Forwards:

13 Jimmy Vesey - 9 Jack Eichel - 23 Sam Reinhart
53 Jeff Skinner - 90 Marcus Johansson - 67 Michael Frolik
28 Zemgus Girgensons - 22 Johan Larsson - 43 Conor Sheary
71 Evan Rodrigues - 27 Curtis Lazar - 15 Jean-Sebastien Dea

Defensemen: 10 Henri Jokiharju, 19 Jake McCabe, 24 Lawrence Pilut, 26 Rasmus Dahlin, 33 Colin Miller, 55 Rasmus Ristolainen 

Goalies:

40 Carter Hutton
34 Jonas Johansson

Now, more notes from Friday's practice. 

 

Moving forward

Video: Friday's practice report

Jake McCabe and Curtis Lazar acknowledged the need for urgency following the loss to Montreal, the team's second in a row since returning from the bye week. The Sabres sit 10 points removed from a playoff spot and are in the midst of a vital stretch with seven of their next eight games at home. 

Krueger, who has promoted a day-to-day focus since the start of training camp, spoke about balancing that urgency and the justified concerns of the fanbase with the "small picture" he sees as vital to the team's success. 

"I mean, for us to move beyond the small picture at this time of year is just a waste of energy, I have to say," he said. "It's not that we're sticking our heads in the sand and whatever noise is out there is out there but I really don't let it into my head or my space because I need to work with this group on a daily basis as constructively as possible to grow them, to educate them, and to build a foundation that becomes a habit. We've spoken about it since September 12th and we will not lose that course. 

"So, the noise out there is deserved if you're telling me it is out there but it's not getting inside our room because we are very confident in the principles that we're bringing into play here, we're confident in the processes that we're laying out here, we feel a continued complete buy-in by the players of what we're working on." 

"Are the results the way we want them? No. And do fans deserve to boo us after games like Ottawa and Montreal? Yes. Do we need to take that? Yes, and it should fuel us to continue to work in the right direction. That's how I'm feeling right now and that's how the group is feeling and we're going to continue to work hard."

You can watch Krueger's full session with the media below: 

Video: AFTER PRACTICE: Ralph Krueger

 

Frolik happy with new role

Michael Frolik came to Buffalo looking for a better opportunity, and he's gotten it through eight games. The winger remained on a line with Marcus Johansson and Jeff Skinner Friday, where he's played since returning from the bye. He's averaging 14:25 of ice time, up more than two full minutes from his time in Calgary. 

Though Krueger has said that Frolik was placed on his line because of his defensive responsibility, which should free Johansson and Skinner offensively, Frolik admitted he's hungry to contribute his own offense, as well. He's produced at least two scoring chances in four of his past five contests, according to NaturalStatTrick.com, but only has one goal since joining the Sabres. 

"Obviously, my ice time has been higher, and my role has been pretty good here coming from Calgary," he said. "I'm happy with that, for sure. … Hopefully, like I said, I want to play the right way and don't think too much about the scoring. But it's a little bit in your head, too. You want to help the team, help the guys and get some experience. I know we got a young team here and strive to be an example for them on the ice and in the practices and stuff."

 

Up next

The Sabres will look to right the ship when they host the Columbus Blue Jackets - current owners of the first wild card in the Eastern Conference - on Saturday afternoon. It will be a Kids Day at KeyBank Center. 

Coverage on MSG begins at 12:30 p.m., or you can listen to the game on WGR 550. Puck drop is scheduled for 1. 

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