For the first time this season, the Buffalo Sabres will be without Ryan O'Reilly when they host the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday afternoon. O'Reilly sustained a lower-body injury in a win in Columbus on Friday and is continuing to be evaluated by doctors.
O'Reilly missed practiced on Saturday for what Sabres coach Dan Bylsma hoped to simply be a maintenance day. Bylsma said that the extent of O'Reilly's injury remains unclear but added that he would likely have an answer once evaluations are completed this afternoon.
In losing O'Reilly, the Sabres lose their leading scorer, their most efficient man in the faceoff circle and a top-unit player on both the power play and the penalty kill. Sam Reinhart will slide over to center in his absence, while Justin Bailey was recalled from Rochester to fill O'Reilly's spot in the lineup.
"You're taking out a guy who plays 20-plus minutes and in every situation," Bylsma said. "He's the first over the boards in everything we need and that’s a big part of our lineup. It's not the first time we've had an injury to a significant player that we've had to deal with and I think in large parts we're going to see a lot of the same things from our team."
Bailey, 20, made an immediate impression in his NHL debut against Philadelphia on Feb. 11, when he tallied a team-high seven shots on goal. He played three more games before being reassigned to Rochester on Thursday.
"The speed and the size that he brought was real evident in our game," Bylsma said. "Again, I'll keep talking about the Philly game. There was more of it in the other games that he played but his speed and his presence in the offensive zone at the net is something we want to continue to see from the kid."
The Sabres will also be playing for the first time without defenseman Cody Franson, who was injured on a hit-from-behind into the boards against Columbus. Mike Weber will play in his absence.
Robin Lehner, coming off a 38-save shutout against the Blue Jackets, will start in net for the Sabres. He'll be opposed by Marc-Andre Fleury.
Sunday's game can be seen on NBC at 12:30 p.m. or heard live on WGR 550 with Brian Duff and Rob Ray on the call.