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Sabres return from rare break in St. Louis

Frolik to make team debut; Pilut's status will be revealed at game time

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber /

ST. LOUIS - It's been four days since the Buffalo Sabres last played a game, a rare break in what's been an otherwise arduous schedule since the team returned from Sweden in mid-November. 

The Sabres return to action tonight against the St. Louis Blues, potentially with multiple new faces in the lineup. Michael Frolik, who was acquired from Calgary last Thursday, will make his team debut while Lawrence Pilut's status will be revealed after pregame warmups. 

Pilut was recalled Tuesday and practiced yesterday on a defense pair with Rasmus Ristolainen.

"He looked really, really strong yesterday in practice," Krueger said. "That was practice, but we're going to warm up here with seven [defensemen] and 12 [forwards] and then make the call after warmup. We still have a few bodies we're just monitoring to make sure everybody's OK and then we'll make that final call. But to see Pilut play here in the next few games is definitely something we'd like to do."

Video: PREGAME: Krueger

Frolik is expected to skate on a line with Marcus Johansson and Conor Sheary and also see time on the penalty kill. The 31-year-old averaged 1:08 of shorthanded ice time with Calgary this season and ranked third on the Chicago Blackhawks in shorthanded ice time during their Stanley Cup run in 2013. 

The Sabres penalty kill is 4-for-4 in the team's last two wins over Edmonton and Florida but ranks 27th on the season at 74.6 percent.

"Penalty killing in the National Hockey League, it's a meter here and a meter there or three feet here and three feet there and it's very, very small margins that put you in or out of position," Krueger said. "I find we're still battling that at times.

"… For us, getting confidence is a big thing. Michael Frolik is an excellent penalty killer, brings a real confidence and experience there that will help us get those meters there, not only through the way he plays but also the way he can influence others to play. So, we're looking forward to him improving our penalty killing game."

The Sabres will stick with Linus Ullmark in net for the eighth straight game. He's stopped 79 of 85 shots (.929) in three career meetings with the Blues 


Scouting the Blues 

It will be the second and final meeting of the season between the Sabres and the reigning Stanley Cup champions. The Sabres won the first meeting, 5-2, in Buffalo on Dec. 11 behind multi-point outings from Jack Eichel and Johan Larsson. 

The Blues have gone 9-2-1 since that contest, including a 3-2 victory over San Jose on Saturday, placing them atop the Western Conference standings with 65 points. They are 19-0-5 when scoring first, making a strong start a top priority for the Sabres coming off their long layover.

"We all know that we need to activate our game plan pretty early," Krueger said. "If we wait and hesitate, they'll take advantage of that so an excellent start will be important and then building on that. "We always are a better starting team, I find, of late than the opposition. But St. Louis has a lot of respect. They lost in our building. They're going to be hungry; they're going to be ready. We're expecting a really tight, strong, one-goal game today. The team that scores first is definitely going to have an edge, so we'll work hard to do that."

Jordan Binnington, who was selected to his first All-Star Game last week, will start in net for St. Louis. 


Who's hot? 

Marcus Johansson (1+5) and Jack Eichel (2+2) enter the contest riding four-game point streaks. Eichel will return to St. Louis later this month as the Sabres' representative at All-Star Weekend. 

Blues forward David Perron has scored goals in two straight games, improving his team-leading point total to 44. His 22 points on the power play are tied for fifth in the NHL. 


Tune in 

Coverage on MSG begins at 7:30 p.m. You can also listen to the game on WGR 550, with puck drop set for 8. 

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