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Asplund, Wilson earn opportunities following injury to Olofsson

Krueger: 'Guys need to step up' in rookie's absence

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber /

With the news that Victor Olofsson is expected to miss five to six weeks with a lower-body injury, Buffalo Sabres coach Ralph Krueger was already focused on how to succeed in the rookie's absence by the time practice began at KeyBank Center on Friday. 

After adding to the team's forward depth with the addition of Michael Frolik from Calgary on Thursday, the Sabres recalled veteran winger Scott Wilson from Rochester on Friday morning. Fellow rookie Rasmus Asplund, meanwhile, got the first crack at replacing Olofsson alongside Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart.

"It's what coaches need to do, is you look at what you have and not what you don't have and you just work with that group," Krueger said. "That's what experience does for that part of your brain. There's no room for emotion in this situation. You need to put the best possible group together to compete against Florida tomorrow and deal with Victor as a separate issue until he returns.

"Of course, he has been a very important catalyst to the good things that are happening here in the team and we need to fill that hole. Guys need to step up. … It's definitely a challenging situation, but we'll pull together and fill that hole."

Olofsson sustained his injury during the sequence that led to Sam Reinhart's game-tying goal in the third period against Edmonton on Thursday. Olofsson got the edge of his skate caught in a rut on the ice as he turned to pass back to Zach Bogosian at the point, forcing him to fall awkwardly on his right leg. 

Video: EDM@BUF: Reinhart deflects in 100th NHL goal

The winger has been a fixture on the team's top scoring line alongside Eichel and Sam Reinhart this season. His season totals of 16 goals and 34 points lead league rookies and rank second on the Sabres. He was named NHL Rookie of the Month for the second time on Thursday.

The Sabres were already without forward Jeff Skinner, whose recovery timetable was set at three to four weeks after sustaining an upper-body injury last Friday. Vladimir Sobotka (knee) and Tage Thompson (upper body) are both out indefinitely. 

Krueger liked what he saw from Asplund playing alongside Eichel and Reinhart in the third period against the Oilers. Asplund has become a trusted defensive presence since earning his first career recall in mid-November, a factor that Krueger said makes him a fit to fill in for Olofsson.

"There's a defensive component to that position, releasing Jack and Sam with the confidence that who's playing with them is going to cover, too, and they cover for each other," Krueger said. "What we're seeing in Asplund's game is that two-way awareness and the ability, very quickly, to also involve himself in the offense which he's still growing daily in front of our eyes here. But we really enjoyed seeing what we did in the end stretch of the game yesterday with him."

Video: Updates from Friday's practice

Asplund considers himself a two-way player and expects to add more offense as he continues to grow more comfortable in the NHL. As a rookie in Rochester last season, 23 of his 41 points came in the team's final 22 games. 

"I know I can bring a lot of offensive points to this league," Asplund said. "I just need to find my path there. That's what I'm trying to figure out."
With Frolik awaiting a work visa and not expected to arrive until next week, the Sabres recalled Wilson to round out a group of 13 healthy forwards available for Saturday's home game against Florida. 

Wilson, 27, has tallied 14 points (6+8) in 22 games with the Amerks this season. He appeared in 64 contests for the Sabres since being acquired from Detroit early in the 2017-18 campaign, though an ankle injury in training camp limited him to just 18 games last season. 

Krueger said Wilson was given a to-do list at the end of training camp of what he needed to accomplish to get back to the NHL level. He checked all those boxes despite missing part of December with an upper-body injury.

The main point of emphasis, Wilson said, was being aggressive. 

"I think they know too when you're coming back from injuries, it's second nature to kind of hold back in some areas of the ice," he said. "The last few weeks I really focused being physical, being aggressive, getting in on the forecheck. Not only do I do that down there, but that's my major role up here so I'm just going try and do that."


Friday's practice

Video: AFTER PRACTICE: Ralph Krueger

Jack Eichel took a maintenance day after skating 23:56 on Thursday. Here's how the Sabres lined up, with Evan Rodrigues filling in between Asplund and Reinhart.


74 Rasmus Asplund - 71 Evan Rodrigues - 23 Sam Reinhart
13 Jimmy Vesey - 90 Marcus Johansson - 43 Conor Sheary
28 Zemgus Girgensons - 22 Johan Larsson - 21 Kyle Okposo
20 Scott Wilson - 27 Curtis Lazar - 77 Dalton Smith

Defensemen: 4 Zach Bogosian, 10 Henri Jokiharju, 19 Jake McCabe, 26 Rasmus Dahlin, 33 Colin Miller, 55 Rasmus Ristolainen, 62 Brandon Montour

Johansson, Pilut named to AHL All-Star Roster

Goaltender Jonas Johansson and defenseman Lawrence Pilut have been selected to represent the North Division at the 2020 AHL All-Star Classic, the league announced Friday. The event will be held Jan. 26 and 27 in Ontario, California. 

It's the second straight AHL All-Star selection for Pilut, who is tied for 10th among AHL defensemen with 16 assists. His average of .74 points per game ranks 12th among defensemen with at least 10 games played. 

Johansson is 10-2-2 with two shutouts in 15 games. He ranks second among AHL goalies in both goals-against average (2.00) and save percentage (.933). 

The two players join Amerks coach Chris Taylor, who will lead the North Division All-Star Team. 

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