The Buffalo Sabres will take the ice at First Niagara Center for the first time this season Friday night and a few players will participate in their very first home game.
Three rookies – Zemgus Girgensons, Rasmus Ristolainen and Johan Larsson – will also be playing in their second career NHL games. The Sabres take on the Ottawa Senators at 7 p.m.
Girgensons and Ristolainen made their debuts on Wednesday in the season opener in Detroit. Larsson played one game for the Minnesota Wild last season before being acquired by the Sabres at the trade deadline. He was a healthy scratch Wednesday but with Ville Leino out with a cracked rib, he will center the second line consisting of Steve Ott and Tyler Ennis.
Larsson said after the morning skate that having that first game already under his belt will be helpful. What’s also helped is that he’s been playing center through all of the preseason.
“It’s going to be tough, but I feel confidence there. I’ve been there the whole camp and [now I] just go out there and play,” he said. “There’s always going to mistakes but I’m excited to be out there. Ennis and Ott are two good players to play with so it shouldn’t be too big of a deal.”
Ennis will move from center to right wing and through two practices, Ott likes the prospects of the new line.
“I like the combination of being responsible in our own end with him being a very responsible player and then also having scoring ability with great touch,” Ott said. “I think [Larsson] brings a very good element to our line. Obviously it moves [Ennis] over on the right side, but he’s a great winger and centerman. So you get that combination of a little bit of everything.”
In the other lineup change from Wednesday, the fourth line will look a little bit different. Kevin Porter will slide into the middle and left wing John Scott will make his season debut. Cody McCormick will be a healthy scratch.
“We’re just going lineup to lineup,” Rolston said. “I think Cody McCormick’s done a good job but we want to get John in there tonight.”
The defensive pairings will remain the same with Jamie McBain serving as a healthy scratch.
Ryan Miller will start against the Senators.
After the game, the Sabres will travel to Pittsburgh and with three games in four nights, it’s possible that Jhonas Enroth could start in goal against the Penguins on Saturday. Rolston said “we’ll see” when asked about Enroth getting an early game in.
“We want to get Jhonas more starts this year. As we’ve talked before, we know [Miller’s] going to have the bulk, but we have to prepare Jhonas also to get some more time in there,” he said.
In anticipation of the first home game of the 2013-14 season, the Sabres are reminding fans about the limited traffic patterns surrounding First Niagara Center due to the construction of HARBORcenter. The team is also encouraging fans to arrive early for the 7 p.m. game against the Ottawa Senators. With the Party in the Plaza planned for before the game, in addition to a pregame handout for fans, early arrival will ensure an orderly entrance into the arena.
As a result of the HARBORcenter construction, vehicular traffic is limited to one lane northbound (away from arena) on Washington Street and one lane southbound (toward arena) on Main Street. While there have been and will continue to be temporary road closures, no closures are currently planned during arena events.
All normal event parking – in both the arena ramp and the surrounding surface lots – will remain open.
Fans that plan on visiting First Niagara Center while the limited traffic routes are in effect should plan on using Michigan Avenue instead of Washington Street. It is strongly suggested that fans plan ahead and leave extra time for traveling to and from the arena.
During First Niagara Center events, the Buffalo Police Department Traffic Division will control all affected intersections and will direct traffic accordingly.
26 Thomas Vanek – 19 Cody Hodgson – 21 Drew Stafford
9 Steve Ott – 22 Johan Larsson – 63 Tyler Ennis
28 Zemgus Girgensons – 25 Mikhail Grigorenko – 65 Brian Flynn
32 John Scott – 12 Kevin Porter – 36 Patrick Kaleta
10 Christian Ehrhoff – 3 Mark Pysyk
20 Henrik Tallinder – 57 Tyler Myers
6 Mike Weber – 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
30 Ryan Miller
1 Jhonas Enroth
Scratched: 8 Cody McCormick , 4 Jamie McBain
Injured: 82 Marcus Foligno (upper-body strain), 23 Ville Leino (cracked rib), 78 Corey Tropp (broken jaw), 33 Joel Armia (broken hand), 61 Nikita Zadorov (lacerated finger)
SENATORS LINEUP (via Senators.com)
9 Milan Michalek – 19 Jason Spezza – 6 Bobby Ryan
16 Clarke MacArthur – 7 Kyle Turris – 89 Cory Conacher
14 Colin Greening – 44 Jean-Gabriel Pageau – 22 Erik Condra
15 Zack Smith – 24 Stephane Da Costa – 25 Chris Neil
65 Erik Karlsson – 3 Marc Methot
2 Jared Cowen – 46 Patrick Wiercioch
4 Chris Phillips – 62 Eric Gryba
41 Craig Anderson
40 Robin Lehner