MONTREAL - It hasn't yet been 24 hours since Rasmus Ristolainen skated 35:24 of ice time in an overtime win for the Buffalo Sabres. The mark was not only a career high for Ristolainen, but one that no Sabre has reached since the NHL began tracking ice time during the 1999-2000 season, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
With the Sabres set to play against the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday, Ristolainen may be asked to carry a similar workload. Not that the young defenseman has ever had any issues with playing big minutes.
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"The Rasmus answer is 'That's why you train in the summer time,'" Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. "He trains extremely hard and he's got the capability to have the workload. I'd be surprised if he didn't have 30 minutes again tonight."
Ristolainen's ice time was predicated by a shoulder injury to Jake McCabe that left the Sabres with five defensemen early in the first period on Friday. McCabe did not travel to Montreal (Bylsma did not yet have an update on his status, other than to say it's an injury McCabe has dealt with for two years), and the Sabres recalled Casey Nelson from Rochester to fill the hole.
Nelson may give the Sabres six defensemen, but they still remain unbalanced in that five of the six are right-handed shots. Justin Falk, the lone left shot, will begin the night on a pair with Ristolainen, while Zach Bogosian and Taylor Fedun will be forced to play on their off side. Bylsma said those pairs will change as the night goes on.
McCabe joins Josh Gorges (hip) and Dmitry Kulikov (lower back) on the list of injured defensemen for the Sabres, all three of which are left shots. Kulikov has been skating on his own as of late, but Gorges has not been on the ice.
The Sabres will face a Canadiens team concluding its own set of back-to-back games, coming off a 3-1 victory in New Jersey on Friday.
Robin Lehner will start in net for the Sabres and be opposed by Carey Price for the Canadiens.
Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with the Tops Pregame Show on MSG-B, or you can listen live on WGR 550. The puck drops between the Sabres and Canadiens at 7 p.m.
63 Tyler Ennis - 90 Ryan O'Reilly - 21 Kyle Okposo
82 Marcus Foligno - 15 Jack Eichel - 23 Sam Reinhart
9 Evander Kane - 28 Zemgus Girgensons - 12 Brian Gionta
48 William Carrier - 19 Cal O'Reilly - 26 Matt Moulson
41 Justin Falk - 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
47 Zach Bogosian - 6 Cody Franson
38 Taylor Fedun - 34 Casey Nelson
40 Robin Lehner
31 Anders Nilsson