Just as they were for their first two games against the Detroit Red Wings this season, the Buffalo Sabres will be missing forward Tyler Ennis on Saturday afternoon at First Niagara Center. Ennis sustained an upper-body injury on a hit by Alexander Ovechkin in Washington on Wednesday and is week-to-week according to Sabres coach Dan Bylsma.
Ennis had played in only three games since returning from an unrelated upper-body injury that caused him to miss 12 contests from Nov. 25 to Dec. 17. He has 11 points (3+8) in 23 games this season.
"I know he was just getting up to speed and getting back into the speed of the game and gets injured again," Bylsma said. "It's unfortunate, he feels like he hasn’t been able to get where he needs to be to be effective for our team this year."
Chad Johnson will start in net for the Sabres. He'll oppose Petr Mrazek in a rematch of a 2-1 Sabres win at Joe Louis Arena on Dec. 14. Ryan O'Reilly and Johan Larsson scored in the final five minutes of that game to give the Sabres the lead and Johnson made a diving stop to seal the victory with 18 seconds remaining.
The two teams faced once prior to that, on Dec. 1 in Detroit. The Red Wings came out on top in that contest, surviving a third-period comeback by the Sabres and winning 5-4 in a shootout.
With those games in mind, Bylsma is hoping for a "clean win" on Saturday.
"We gave up one in the first game and we got one in the second game," he said. "We were up in that game, in the first one in Detroit, on the strength of our power play getting two goals and getting the lead. We gave up the power-play goal there with about six-and-a-half minutes left on that rush entry play and you felt like you gave one away.
"[On Dec. 14], we really had to go the distance to get even in that game and we score the back-to-back goals late in that game to get the win which a huge win. So I think they’ve been real tight games and probably been pretty even on both sides of the ledger."
Bylsma said that beyond Johnson, the rest of his lineup will be a game-time announcement.
Coverage begins at 12:30 p.m. with Tops Sabres Gamenight on MSG-B and Bell TV. The game can also be heard live on WGR 550.