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Larsson set to return in Boston

Rest of lineup will be game-time announcement

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber /

BOSTON - Johan Larsson will return to the lineup for the Sabres when they visit the Boston Bruins tonight at TD Garden.

Larsson has missed the past three games with an upper-body injury. His last shift came at the end of regulation against Carolina last Thursday, when he scored the tying goal with 40.1 seconds remaining in an eventual overtime loss. 

Sabres coach Ralph Krueger said that the team's starting goaltender as well as the makeup of its lines and defense pairs will be game-time announcements. 

The team practiced with the following forward lines on Wednesday, which Krueger emphasized are subject to change. 

13 Jimmy Vesey - 9 Jack Eichel - 23 Sam Reinhart
53 Jeff Skinner - 71 Evan Rodrigues - 43 Conor Sheary
28 Zemgus Girgensons - 22 Johan Larsson - 27 Curtis Lazar
68 Victor Olofsson - 37 Casey Mittelstadt - 74 Rasmus Asplund

The contest opens a three-game road trip against the current top two teams in the Atlantic Division (Boston and Florida) as well as the team that won the division last season (Tampa Bay). It's an opportunity for the Sabres, who are looking to bounce back from a loss to Minnesota on Tuesday. 

Krueger said he was encouraged by the conversations and attitude he saw at practice Wednesday and again at the rink this morning. He described a group of players working toward solutions as they look to establish the habits they displayed through a successful month of October.

Video: PREGAME: Krueger

"In the end, we respect the Boston Bruins, but we want to be the Buffalo Sabres," Krueger said. 'We want to take concepts and we want to take individual pieces of other teams and make them our own, all the time, every night. That's what Boston does and it's what makes them a great team, is they have their own game. We're building our own game that's unique to our skillset and the group that we have and it's going to come. 

"It's going to come if the guys keep working hard the way they are and the way they're active in the meetings and the way they're communicating with each other right now is nothing but a winning spirit. We just have to transfer that onto the ice."


Tweaking the power play

The Sabres experimented with a new look on the power play Tuesday, utilizing defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen and his 6-foot-4, 218-pound frame as a presence at the net front. 

Krueger explained it's one of many options the team will look to utilize to steer its power play back on track amid a 0-for-21 stretch. 

"I think what we need to be able to have is different looks," he said. "So, you could see Skinner back in there, you could see Risto back in there. We need to be able to develop different looks, because the pre-scouts have been so strong.

"... That's just one of many options we're going to start developing and growing now. We didn't want to disrupt the team too much with a lot of changes and newness. You can see we're consistent with a lot of things in our 5-on-5 game. But I believe in our power play and penalty killing, we could become a little more elusive, and that's just going to be a great tool moving forward."


Scouting the Bruins

The Bruins sit atop the Atlantic Division at 13-3-5. They rank fourth in goals per game (3.57), third in average goals against (2.38), and third on the power play (28.8 percent). 

Center Patrice Bergeron is expected to return from a two-game absence, slotting back in on a line with Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak. The three comprise one of the NHL's most dangerous trios - Boston has outscored opponents 22-11 with all three on the ice at 5-on-5. 

It all adds up to a significant test for the Sabres, who are embracing the challenge.

"They're dangerous right through their lineup and it is truly a game that will test our ability to connect and our ability to defend," Krueger said. "It needs to begin there. Our offense needs to be patient today. The opportunities against Boston here at home are few and far between and you need to be patient and wait for those to show up. They will show up, and then we need to pounce. 

"But this is really a test for our team game. It's a good time for that. We are striving to get that back on track. You need to have as much respect for the Boston Bruins as any other team in the NHL and you need to play your absolute A-game to have a chance, and we all understand that and are looking forward to the challenge."

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