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JOHNSON RETURNS TO NET IN SAN JOSE

by Jourdon LaBarber / Buffalo Sabres

SAN JOSEChad Johnson doesn’t recall many of the specifics from the Buffalo Sabres' last meeting with the San Jose Sharks, a 2-1 overtime loss at First Niagara Center on Nov. 13, in which he made 30 saves.

He does, however, remember the overtime goal scored by Patrick Marleau that cost the Sabres the game. On Friday, Johnson will have a chance to avenge that loss when he gets the nod in net against the Sharks at SAP Center.

"I just remember the overtime and probably their speed," Johnson said. "They have so much experience with the puck; they have lot of offensive guys and a lot of skilled guys … Hopefully we can come out and have a good, strong effort and try to get a win."

Much like Buffalo's first opponent on their California road trip in Anaheim, San Jose is in the midst of a hot streak that has allowed them to pull away from the pack in the Pacific Division and into the hunt for the division lead. Since Jan. 9, San Jose has ascended from sixth place to third with a 14-3-4 record, 10 points ahead of the fourth-place Vancouver Canucks. They’re six points behind first-place Los Angeles with a game in hand.

They've already begun to retool for their postseason push, acquiring defenseman Roman Polak and forward Nick Spaling from the Toronto Maples Leafs on Monday. Spaling scored on his first shift as a Shark in an overtime loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday.

Add those pieces to a team led by two 56-points scores in Joe Thornton (14+42) and Joe Pavelski (26+30), along with playing in one of the loudest buildings in the League, and the Sabres will have their work cut out for them come Friday.

"This is one of the loudest buildings in the West for sure. I don’t know if it's the structure of the building but the sound reverberates pretty loud in here and always is a tough place to play," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. "They've always had big, strong, physical, grinding teams and that grinding style comes also with the skill of Thornton, Marleau and Joe Pavelski as well so it's a tough team to play against."

For whatever reason, the home-ice advantage hasn't played out so well for the Sharks. They're 21-9-3 on the road this season as opposed to 11-12-3 at home, meaning 45 of their 70 points have come away from the raucous confines of SAP Center.

The Sabres also have recent head-to-head history on their side. They're on a nine-game point streak against the Sharks, having entered their overtime loss in November with wins in their last eight matchups.


FRANSON UPDATE
After skating with the team at practice on Tuesday and again on Wednesday morning, defenseman Cody Franson was absent from the morning skate on Friday. Franson has missed two games with an upper-body injury he sustained one week ago in Columbus.

"He's still not getting 100 percent better yet," Bylsma said. "He had an active day yesterday, working-out wise and today he's taking the day off."


PROJECTED LINEUP
9 Evander Kane – 23 Sam Reinhart – 56 Justin Bailey
28 Zemgus Girgensons – 15 Jack Eichel – 88 Jamie McGinn
82 Marcus Foligno – 22 Johan Larsson – 12 Brian Gionta
44 Nicolas Deslauriers – 17 David Legwand – 26 Matt Moulson

4 Josh Gorges – 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
29 Jake McCabe – 47 Zach Bogosian
25 Carlo Colaiacovo – 3 Mark Pysyk

31 Chad Johnson
40 Robin Lehner

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