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Sharpen Up: All the Sabres news you need to know on December 29, 2019

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber /

It's a game night in Boston. 

Coming off a 3-0 loss to the Bruins at home on Saturday, the Sabres will look to split their home-and-home set with the Atlantic Division leaders tonight at TD Garden. Pregame coverage on MSG begins at 6:30, with puck drop scheduled for 7. 

The Sabres will be without Jeff Skinner, who is expected to miss three to four weeks after sustaining an upper-body injury on Friday. If Saturday's practice was any indication, that could mean we see some new-look forward lines. 

Here's what you need to know.


The lineup

Video: SABRES IN :50

Johan Larsson skated with the team Saturday after missing the past three games with a lower-body injury. Sabres coach Ralph Krueger said his status for the game will be determined this morning. 

If Larsson does play, he could center a line with Marcus Johansson and Sam Reinhart. The Sabres used that look in practice, with Kyle Okposo then slotting in on the right wing alongside Victor Olofsson and Jack Eichel. The four lines were as follows:

68 Victor Olofsson - 9 Jack Eichel - 21 Kyle Okposo
90 Marcus Johansson - 22 Johan Larsson - 23 Sam Reinhart
28 Zemgus Girgensons - 27 Curtis Lazar - 71 Evan Rodrigues
43 Conor Sheary - 74 Rasmus Asplund - 13 Jimmy Vesey

By splitting up the trio of Girgensons, Larsson, and Okposo, Krueger said he hopes to see their habits spread throughout the lineup. That line has been one of Buffalo's most consistent this season in terms of how they play within the team structure. 

Check out Saturday's practice report for more on the line changes, including Okposo's mindset playing alongside Eichel. 


Tonight's matchup

Krueger said he was pleasantly surprised when reviewing the tape of Friday's game in terms of the net-front pressure the Sabres generated in the net-front loss. They were unable to solve Bruins goalie Jaroslav Halak, who posted a 26-save shutout, but they had their share of quality chances. 

They'll be looking to capitalize on those chances in tonight's rematch. It will be no easy task against a Bruins team that's allowed a league-best 2.44 goals per game. Sam Reinhart said a focus on Saturday was making sure players are in sync when it comes to getting pucks and bodies to the net.

"They compact pretty nicely right in front of the net," Reinhart said. "It makes it hard to get to. I think our timing when we get pucks there needs to be a little bit better. That's going to make our forwards want to get there a little bit more, too."

Defensively, the Sabres will look to slow down Bruins center Patrice Bergeron, who has scored two goals in each of his past three games. 

Video: AFTER PRACTICE: Krueger

"We like the energy of the group coming out of that loss, we love the opportunity of playing Boston right away again," Krueger said Saturday. "I think there's no better team for us to play and bring the energy that we have after last night into a good game tomorrow."


World Juniors update

Sabres prospects Matej Pekar (4th round, 2018) and Dylan Cozens (1st round, 2019) both found themselves on the losing end of their respective games on Saturday.

Pekar tallied an assist in the Czech Republic's 4-3 loss to Germany. Cozens tallied three shots in 14:02 as Canada fell 6-0 to Russia. Both teams are now 1-1 group play.

Mattias Samuelsson (2nd round, 2018) and Team USA play Russia this afternoon at 1 p.m. The game can be seen on NHL Network. 

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