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Jokiharju to join veteran lineup against Blue Jackets

Eichel, Dahlin among players who will dress Wednesday

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber / Sabres.com

With training camp winding down, the Sabres will ice a veteran lineup in their penultimate preseason game against the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight at KeyBank Center.

The game will serve as a dress rehearsal of sorts with regulars like Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart, Jeff Skinner, Rasmus Dahlin, and Rasmus Ristolainen all slated to play. With 30 players still participating in camp, Sabres coach Ralph Krueger said the roster will shift for Saturday's preseason finale in Pittsburgh.

"You will see multiple changes for that game," Krueger said. "Again, [we're] continuing to get to know players and like I told you yesterday, anybody who falls short here will continue to be an option with the one-hour drive to get back here. 

"This is just a process that's going to continue on week in and week out right through the whole season."

Click here for a breakdown of the players remaining at camp. 

Jake McCabe will miss the remainder of the preseason due to an upper-body injury he sustained during practice on Tuesday, though the defenseman is expected to be ready for opening night. John Gilmour will step into the lineup in his absence on a pair with Colin Miller. 

One more player who has taken on a larger role as a result of injuries is defenseman Henri Jokiharju, who will dress for his fourth preseason game. That number increases if you count his two appearances in the Prospects Challenge earlier this month.

"I think with the injuries we've had, it's an excellent opportunity for Henri to show what he's made of and having had so many games, he's been able to adapt to what we want to do here as a player with North American experience," Krueger said. 

"Of course, coming out of Finland, it's good for him to see what we're doing, the adjustments we're making, and for us to get to know the versatility of him that we expected. It's there. He can add to the offense, but he defends quite well and sees the game well."

Jokiharju said the ample playing time has helped particularly with his timing. 
    
"Of course, it helps a lot," he said. "You get more games, you get into game pace more, you get the puck more. You get into some kinds of pressure situations, so it's good."

At forward, Victor Olofsson will remain on the top line alongside Eichel and Reinhart. Evan Rodrigues moved to a spot on the wing alongside Skinner and Marcus Johansson, with Kyle Okposo occupying Rodrigues' former place alongside Jimmy Vesey and Casey Mittelstadt. 

Tage Thompson will skate on a line with Zemgus Girgensons and Vladimir Sobotka, a decision Krueger explained was made to promote balance throughout the lineup.

"Tage, in that group, will profit from the grit and profit from the forecheck of [Girgensons] when Girgensons is up their working the corners," the coach said. "We expect that line to be quite efficient in putting forechecking pressure on but then having somebody there who can capitalize on it. 

"Depth scoring is important in the National Hockey League to win games. You'll often see a power-play player tucked away on what you might consider a third or fourth line in the way that we like to approach a game where all four lines can play responsible in both directions."

 

How to watch

Tonight's game will be broadcast on MSG, with pregame coverage set to begin at 6:30 p.m. Rick Jeanneret and Rob Ray will have the call, will full postgame coverage to follow. You can also listen to the game live on WGR 550. 

 

Projected lineup 

68 Victor Olofsson - 9 Jack Eichel - 23 Sam Reinhart
53 Jeff Skinner - 90 Marcus Johansson - 21 Kyle Okposo
13 Jimmy Vesey - 37 Casey Mittelstadt - 71 Evan Rodrigues
28 Zemgus Girgensons - 17 Vladimir Sobotka - 72 Tage Thompson

26 Rasmus Dahlin - 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
58 John Gilmour - 33 Colin Miller
6 Marco Scandella - 10 Henri Jokiharju

40 Carter Hutton
35 Linus Ullmark

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