CALGARY – The Buffalo Sabres stepped away for a week, but they’re back and hoping that the time off will pay dividends in their first game following the All-Star Break.
The Sabres are set to take on the Calgary Flames on Tuesday at Scotiabank Saddledome. The Tops Gamenight pregame show begins at 8:30 p.m. EST on MSG-B and Bell with puck drop scheduled for a little after 9 p.m. EST. The game can also be heard live on WGR 550.
“We had a week there to take out mind off the game for a bit and just kind of reset,” forward Chris Stewart said. “Like I’ve said the last couple days, you can see the hop in the step of everyone’s stride and everyone’s happy to be here and get ready for the second half.”
Buffalo will have captain Brian Gionta and Mike Weber back in the lineup as they return from injuries. Weber has missed two games with a lower-body injury while Gionta has been out since sustaining an upper-body injury on Dec. 21.
Nikita Zadorov, currently suspended for not reporting to Monday’s practice on time, was not at the skate and could join the team in Calgary. Nolan said the coaching staff will have a meeting with him before deciding when he’ll return to the lineup.
Jhonas Enroth will start in goal and will be backed up by Matt Hackett. Michal Neuvirth sustained a lower-body injury while working out during the All-Star Break and will miss at least the next three games.
Seven defensemen took the ice during the morning skate and Sabres coach Ted Nolan said they won’t make any decisions on who is in and who is out until game time.
With Gionta and Weber back and Marcus Foligno inching closer to a return from a broken hand, the team hopes they can develop some stability in their lines and defensive pairings.
“This is our first skate back, it feels like we’ve got our team back outside of Marcus and Nikita, who missed because of travel reasons,” Nolan said. “But outside of that, that’s our first time we’ve had a full team for quite some time.”
Gionta’s presence in the locker room, on the ice and on the bench, is one that was sorely missed by the squad while he was out. With the squad slowly coming together again, they’ll try to recapture some of the success they had when they went 10-3-0 back in November.
“We’ve showed in spurts what we can do when we’re on the top of our game. It’s just bringing that consistency and it’s just playing hard,” Stewart said. “We’re a little bit healthier now. We’ve got our captain back in the lineup which I think is going to be a boost for us – and riding that composure as a team and go from there.”
Defenseman Tyler Myers said that focusing on details and supporting each other better will be extremely important if the Sabres want to claim two points against the Flames and snap out of their current 11-game losing streak.
Gionta, who has been watching the team’s struggles from far, had a similar assessment of what the team needs to concentrate on improving.
“When you have a chance to sit back and look at it, you see some things that you might not be seeing when you’re in the mix,” he said. “But at the same time, it’s no secret we’ve been spending way too much time in our D zone, relying too much on our goalie to make a big save.
“You can’t give guys time and space in the D zone and right now, I think one of our biggest problems is we’re not closing quick enough, we’re not able to stop their cycle where they have a lot of puck possession.”
Tyler Myers grew up in Calgary and will play his first professional game there on Monday.
The six-year veteran missed the team’s other trips to Calgary due to injuries and suspensions. He’ll have a contingent of family and friends in attendance to cheer him on.
“It’s definitely exciting, but I’ve kind of learned over the last year especially that I’m going to come in and approach this game like I would any other game,” he said. “I don’t want to change my preparation and how I get ready for a game, but it’ll be exciting to step out there for sure.”
MORNING SKATE LINEUP
26 Matt Moulson – 28 Zemgus Girgensons – 63 Tyler Ennis
65 Brian Flynn – 17 Torrey Mitchell – 12 Brian Gionta
21 Drew Stafford – 19 Cody Hodgson – 80 Chris Stewart
44 Nicolas Deslauriers – 37 Matt Ellis – 36 Drew Stafford
4 Josh Gorges – 57 Tyler Myers
6 Mike Weber – 55 Rasmus Ristolainen – 41 Andrej Meszaros
61 Andre Benoit – 24 Tyson Strachan
1 Jhonas Enroth
31 Matt Hackett