Zemgus Girgensons will make his return to the Sabres' lineup when they host the Nashville Predators on Wednesday at First Niagara Center.
After missing four games with an upper-body injury sustained against San Jose on Nov. 14, Girgensons skated with the team for the second-straight day on Wednesday and said he felt ready to go.
He’ll look to help Buffalo snap a five-game winless streak that began that game against the Sharks. Although he stayed back from the team’s subsequent road trip to St. Louis and Dallas, he’s watched as his team has struggled to find the back of the net.
“I think it’s just small details,” he said after the team’s optional skate. “We give a lot to some teams and I think we create enough chances for ourselves to take a lot of games as well so I think it’s just, for us, finishing our chances.”
Coverage on Wednesday begins at 6:30 p.m. with Tops Sabres Gamenight on MSG-B and Bell TV. The game can also be heard live on WGR 550 with puck drop set for 7 p.m.
Linus Ullmark will start in net for the Sabres. Defenseman Mark Pysyk will miss his fourth-straight game with a bone bruise in his lower body despite practicing on Monday and Tuesday.
Forward Evander Kane, who was absent from practice on Tuesday with a lower-body injury, is a possibility to play. Sabres coach Dan Bylsma labeled Kane’s status as “probable” on Tuesday. Kane had missed 10 games with an MCL injury, but this latest ailment is unrelated.
Girgensons’ return will impact the Sabres in all aspects of the game.
“He’s great; he kind of plays the way we want everyone to play,” forward Sam Reinhart said. “He can be gritty, he can get some offense and obviously he’s great defensively so he’s a big part of this team and we’d all be thrilled to have him in the lineup.”
But while he brings an all-around game to the table, the Sabres could especially use help finding the back of the net, having scored just five goals during their current 0-3-2 skid.
Girgensons, who only scored one goal in 17 games prior to his injury, compared his team’s scoring struggles to his own.
“As I said about the team we just have to finish our chances,” he said. “I think I had plenty of opportunities in the first  games to score more goals so I think it’s up to me and the teammates next to us just to bury our own chances.”
The chances were certainly there in a 2-1 loss to St. Louis on Wednesday. They hit the post twice in the first period, missed multiple one-time attempts and couldn’t connect on a loose puck in front of the net among other opportunities.
“I think in times like this, it’d be a bigger worry if the chances weren’t there,” Reinhart said. “I mean we’re talking about it, our chances are definitely there. It’s just a matter of time, it’s a matter of finding ways to get the puck in the net. It’s easy to get frustrated but we’re going to stick with it. Hopefully tonight is the night where it all changes.”
With all that being said, even Buffalo’s scoring troubles don’t quite measure up to Nashville’s.
The Predators have been shutout in each of their past three games, the first such streak in the franchise’s history. Their last goal was scored by forward Miikka Salomaki 6:13 into the second period of a 3-2 win against Anaheim on Nov. 17.
Bylsma knocked on the podium when asked about the Predator’s recent drought.
“I really don’t feel comfortable talking about this,” he said.
But would he be happy with a high-scoring affair if the Sabres come out on top?
“Coaches don’t like to see 11-10 games, so that would be the downside,” he said. “But I think both teams would like to see the puck go in the net for their respective teams so I’ll take some pucks sneaking by their goaltender.”
We’re more than six weeks into the 6-10-week timeframe that Bylsma gave for goaltender Robin Lehner’s recovery when he sustained a high ankle sprain against the Ottawa Senators during the season opener on Oct. 8. Bylsma said Wednesday that Lehner still needs time to progress in his rehab.
“I don’t think I would call it a setback,” Bylsma said. “He got to the point where he started upping his rehab level and that’s where he had to back off of that a bit. So he kind of tried to take the next step … he just has to wait a little bit longer on that.”