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by Jourdon LaBarber / Buffalo Sabres

ST. LOUIS – Days of convincing the coaching and training staffs have finally paid off for Evander Kane. After missing 10 games with an MCL injury, the forward will make his return to the Buffalo Sabres’ lineup Thursday night against the Blues in St. Louis.

“I’m well rested. I’ve been all over our training staff to ‘let me play, let me play, let me play,’” Kane said after the team’s morning skate at Scottrade Center. “Tonight’s the night so now I’ve got to go out there and prove them right.”

Coverage of the game will begin at 7:30 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 slated for 8 p.m.

Kane will play on the left side on a line with centerman Jack Eichel and right wing Sam Reinhart. Eichel and Kane were paired as linemates when the season began, and while the production wasn’t quite there, they were able to generate their fair share of offensive opportunities.

A variety of circumstances have held Kane to just one goal and two assists in eight games this season. His first goal was overturned on a coach’s challenge in the season opener, while other chances came short as results of big-time saves, shots off the post or slight misses on open nets.

“It was frustrating for Evander,” Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. “If those all go in, Evander’s feeling pretty good about his goal total early through the season. It didn’t happen that way so there was some, you could look at the score sheet and say, ‘He doesn’t have any goals’ or ‘He’s just got one goal.’ But I felt like, and I think both of them felt like, it had worked better than that.”

Eichel said that he liked the chemistry he formed with Kane in the beginning of the season and that their dynamic skills can complement each other well.

“It was pretty good,” he said. “I think both of us like to play a north game, use our speed, attack the other team. I know he likes to shoot the puck and I like to distribute it. Hopefully I can find him a few times tonight and he can let that shot go.”

Bylsma said Wednesday that the game he watched between the Blues and Winnipeg Jets on Monday was the most physical game he had seen all year. Few on the Sabres know the Blues’ style of play better than Kane, who spent the last two years playing with Winnipeg in the Central Division.

“They’re a tough team, especially in their building,” Kane said. “They play with another gear. They take away your time and space – not an overly fast team but they’re big and they’re physical and they’re heavy.

“You’re going to have to be prepared to play a heavy game and be strong on the puck and be strong on your stick and be ready to battle because they’re going to make it an ugly game.”

Luckily for the Sabres, playing physical is as much a part of Kane’s game as his speed and shooting ability. Bylsma said that this is the perfect time not only to get him back, but also to have one of their strongest defensemen in the lineup in Zach Bogosian.

Bogosian, who came over with Kane from the Jets in a trade last season, made his season debut on Tuesday.

“You’re playing a good team; you’re looking at good players on two or three different lines and so to have Zach in that position to help us out there is huge,” Bylsma said.

“I don’t think we’re going to play a game against them like Winnipeg did against them in here two games ago, but that was a heavy, heavy big game against two teams that can play that way and Evander brings that to our lineup. It’s probably a good time to have him back.”

The Sabres will look to break a six-game losing streak against St. Louis that dates back to Dec. 27, 2009.

Defenseman Mark Pysyk left the morning skate early on Thursday and will not play against the Blues, Bylsma said. Pysyk sustained a lower-body injury against Dallas on Tuesday and the team decided during the skate on Thursday morning that it would be best to sit him out.

Carlo Colaiacovo will play alongside Cody Franson in Pysyk’s place. Bylsma said that Pysyk is day-to-day.

After rotating between goaltenders Chad Johnson and Linus Ullmark for the last five games, Bylsma announced that Ullmark would receive his second-straight start on Thursday. The goalie stopped 26 shots in a 3-1 loss to Dallas Tuesday.

On Thursday, the coach commented on Ullmark’s versatility in net by comparing two saves – one where stopped a puck with his helmet against Florida and one where he squared up to stop a shot with his chest against Dallas.

“There’s some times where he’s shown some great ability to make solid saves and difficult saves look easy,” Bylsma said. “Dallas game, the one second-period chance where they had a slot play, he pushes over and is compact and solid, makes the save, hits him right in the chest but only because of his ability to come off his post push and be solid on that scoring chance.

“He’s also shown the ability to make one with his head when needed to. I prefer the ones that are solid and hit his chest. [Those] make us feel a lot better but he does have that ability to be extraordinary with how he can move and the saves he can make.”

26 Matt Moulson – 90 Ryan O’Reilly – 12 Brian Gionta
9 Evander Kane – 15 Jack Eichel – 23 Sam Reinhart
63 Tyler Ennis – 22 Johan Larsson – 82 Marcus Foligno
44 Nicolas Deslauriers – 17 David Legwand – 88 Jamie McGinn

4 Josh Gorges – 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
29 Jake McCabe – 47 Zach Bogosian
25 Carlo Colaiacovo – 46 Cody Franson

35 Linus Ullmark
31 Chad Johnson

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