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Baptiste to make NHL debut in Calgary

Sabres expect rookie to bring speed to the lineup

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber /

CALGARY - Nicholas Baptiste admitted that he might not sleep as soundly during his pregame nap on Tuesday as he normally would. Such is the case for most players when they make their NHL debut, as Baptiste will for the Sabres against the Calgary Flames.

If Baptiste can channel that adrenaline come gametime, it should play well into his speed-driven game.

"I think the first shift or two I might just be skating real hard but I've got to lock in," Baptiste said. "I know that I've made it and I've paved the way here for myself and I've earned it so I've got to enjoy it a little bit, but at the end of the day it's a business so I've got to make sure I'm playing my best so I can stay up here as long as possible."

Video: Preview: BUF at CGY (10/18/16)

It's been a long journey for Baptiste, who played a full year in Rochester last season without getting called up. It was there, however, where he learned to adjust his game to the pro level and play within the confines of what makes him successful. For him, that's using his speed and taking the puck to the net.

Those are the things he did this summer and in the preseason, when he stood out among his fellow Sabres prospects every step of the way. He did those things in his first game of this season with Rochester, too, when he scored a goal and an assist. For him to be successful against the Flames, he'll just look to keep doing what he's been doing.

"I think you're gonna have a ton of adrenaline and a ton of jump in his game tonight but that's where he needs to be effective," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. "That's where he can be effective. He's a big kid, he can skate like the wind and you saw him be effective in his games in training camp."

Baptiste will have the advantage of playing on a line with Derek Grant, who he had success with in training camp scrimmages and in an exhibition win over Ottawa. Grant fed Baptiste in the second period of that game and Baptiste returned the favor by earning the primary assist on Grant's game-tying goal late in the third.

Perhaps even more so than their comfort offensively, Baptiste said their familiarity will be of good aid in the defensive zone. 

"It's great. He knows where I am on the ice I know where he is," Baptiste said. "It's going to be a lot of quick pinching down on me so I've got to make sure I'm finding him in those areas where he can break the puck out and we can be seamless in our own end."

Robin Lehner will start in net for the Sabres. He'll oppose former Sabre Chad Johnson, who is making his second-straight start for his hometown team after allowing one goal on 31 shots in a shootout loss to Vancouver on Saturday.

Coverage from Scotiabank Saddledome begins at 8:30 p.m. with Tops Sabres Gamenight on MSG-B. The puck drops at 9 p.m., so stay up with Rick Jeanneret as the Sabres go for their second straight win. You can also hear the game live on WGR 500.


Flames focus

For a blueprint on how to beat the Flames, the Sabres need look no further than their 6-2 win in Edmonton on Sunday. Much like the Oilers, the Flames have a young, speed-driven lineup that starts at the top with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan.

The Sabres will likely approach Gaudreau and Monahan the same way they approached Connor McDavid - relying on their top two lines of Kyle Okposo, Ryan O'Reilly and Sam Reinhart and Marcus Foligno, Johan Larsson and Brian Gionta to make things difficult for Calgary's top forwards while counting on all three defensive pairs throughout the game.

For more on how the Sabres were able to do that against Edmonton, check out our practice report form Monday.

The Flames are winless through three games so far, having dropped a pair against the Oilers prior to falling to the Canucks in the shootout, and Gaudreau has yet to find the back of the net. Troy Brouwer and Michael Frolik lead the team with two goals apiece.


Projected lineup 

23 Sam Reinhart - 90 Ryan O'Reilly - 21 Kyle Okposo
82 Marcus Foligno - 22 Johan Larsson - 12 Brian Gionta
63 Tyler Ennis - 28 Zemgus Girgensons - 44 Nicolas Deslauriers
26 Matt Moulson - 27 Derek Grant - 73 Nicholas Baptiste

4 Josh Gorges - 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
29 Jake McCabe - 47 Zach Bogosian
77 Dmitry Kulikov - 6 Cody Franson

40 Robin Lehner
31 Anders Nilsson

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