OTTAWA – The Buffalo Sabres enter the second half of their home-and-home series against the Ottawa Senators after winning the first game in the shootout Tuesday night in Buffalo. When the two clubs take the ice again Thursday night at Canadian Tire Centre at 7:30 p.m., the Sabres will be without one of their top offensive players.
Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan said after the team’s morning skate that center Cody Hodgson will likely miss the game due to injury. Ville Leino, a healthy scratch Tuesday, will take his spot in the lineup.
“Cody Hodgson took a little bit of a banging last game, so he probably won’t go tonight,” Nolan said.
Nolan hopes the injury will only keep Hodgson out for one game. Hodgson was on the ice with the team during the morning skate.
Hodgson is second on the team in scoring with 18 points (8+10). Matt Moulson leads the team with 10 goals and 10 assists this season and has four goals and seven assists since being acquired from the New York Islanders 18 games ago.
The only other expected change to the Sabres roster will take place on the blueline. Defenseman Mike Weber will be back in. Brayden McNabb will sit.
Weber has three points (1+2) in his last three games against the Senators. His seven points (1+6) in 18 career games against the Senators are his highest total against any team.
Defenseman Alexander Sulzer skated with the team, but remains on injured reserve with an upper-body injury. He's missed the past three games.
Ryan Miller is expected to start in goal against Ottawa’s Craig Anderson. Miller is 7-3-1 in his last 11 road games at Ottawa with a .939 save percentage and a 1.85 goals against average.
One thing Nolan liked about his club’s game in the 2-1 shootout win was the effort the players showed.
“The one I think is the way we competed. It seemed like the guys were having fun,” he said. “They were battling. They were playing hockey versus just sitting down and hoping and waiting for things to happen. They were actually playing and it was a good game. Whether the result was the way it was, it was just to watch the process and how guys are starting to work.”
Sabres left wing Luke Adam knows that Buffalo will have to stay on its toes as soon as the puck drops. The Sabres are looking for consecutive wins against the Senators for the first time since they won four in a row from Feb. 25, to Nov. 11, 2011.
“It’s not a bad thing to play a team back-to-back, especially with us coming out on top the first night. We know they’re going to be real hungry,” he said. “You never want to lose two in a row, especially two in a row to the same team. We’re going to be ready right off the start here.”
This home-and-home series is the seventh between these two teams and the first since Feb.7 and Feb. 11, 2009.
On Thursday, 19-year-old rookie forward Zemgus Girgensons scored both Buffalo’s goal in regulation and the goal that decided the shootout. He enters the game on Thursday on a career-best three-game point streak (2+1).
He played on the top line with Tyler Ennis at center and Moulson on the left wing. Both Girgensons and Moulson have enjoyed playing with Ennis in the middle.
“It’s awesome. I love it. He hangs onto the puck and he makes ridiculous moves throughout the whole game,” Girgensons said. “It’s fun to play with him.”
Moulson said he thinks they’ll continue to develop chemistry moving forward. He liked the line’s offensive opportunities and looks forward to turning more than a few passes from Ennis into goals.
“I thought we played pretty well. We had a lot of chances to put the puck in the back of the net. There were some good stops, some defensive plays that kept us from that. But [Girgensons] got the one big goal for us so it was a lot of fun to play with those guys,” Moulson said. “Tyler likes to pass it more often than not so I always enjoy playing with a guy like that. And [Girgensons has] got great speed and gets in on the forecheck, plays aggressive. I think the more we play together, the better we’ll get.”
Girgensons was also involved in a play Tuesday night that resulted in a suspension. The NHL Department of Player Safety announced Wednesday that Senators defenseman Jared Cowen has been suspended two games for illegally hitting Girgensons in the head with 1:53 remaining in regulation.
The fact that Girgensons was not injured on the play and later scored the shootout winner factored in to NHL vice-president of player safety Brendan Shanahan's decision, as did Cowen's lack of a disciplinary history.
No penalty was called on the play.
Girgensons said he does not hold a grudge against Cowen.
“It’s hockey. We played a game where it happens,” Girgensons said. “I definitely have made dirty hits in my life too, so it’s just how it is and he got suspended two games. That’s just how it is.”
Right after the hit, Girgensons chased Cowen down around the Ottawa net and appeared as if he wanted to fight Cowen. However, he changed his mind and skated back down the ice.
“I think everyone should get mad if you get hit right in the head because I could feel the force all the way in my head so I got a little mad,” he said. “I could’ve gotten an instigator if something happened so I think it was just better to leave it there.”