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Baptiste to make season debut; Tennyson questionable vs. Capitals

Gorges, Beaulieu skate with team; Sabres allowing Guhle to develop

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber / Sabres.com

Just as the defense corps for the Buffalo Sabres finally began to show signs of health, the team may have lost one more defenseman to injury. Matt Tennyson was on the ice with the Sabres to begin their morning skate on Tuesday, but left the session early. 

Tennyson, who sustained his injury blocking a shot in practice on Monday, will be a game-time decision when the Sabres host the Washington Capitals on Tuesday night.

"He got a shot in the ankle, which just developed," Sabres coach Phil Housley said. "He was out there trying and he's going to do some treatment right now."

Josh Gorges and Nathan Beaulieu both participated in the morning skate Tuesday, marking the first time either player has skated with the team since sustaining their respective injuries on Oct. 20 and 21. While that bodes well moving forward, neither player is ready to join the lineup against Washington. 

The Sabres recalled Zach Redmond to play in the event that Tennyson is unable. Redmond averaged 14:37 and took six shots during a two-game stint with Buffalo earlier this season.

"I'm just trying to play my game," Redmond said. "I'm just trying to move my feet and finish my checks. When I do that, the rest of my game tends to take care of itself."

Nicholas Baptiste is also expected to join the lineup for the first time since his recall on Nov. 1, stepping in on a line with Sam Reinhart and Seth Griffith. Matt Moulson will sit as a healthy scratch to make room for Baptiste. 

"I really liked the way that line practiced yesterday," Housley said. "I thought they brought a lot of speed to it, and that's what I'm looking for. I think Nick is a guy who can go hard to the net, be physical in that area and provide some of that net-front presence that we've been lacking in our team."

Robin Lehner will start in net for the Sabres. He'll be opposed by Philipp Grubauer for the Capitals. 

The game can be seen nationally on NBCSN, or you can listen to Dan Dunleavy and Rob Ray on the call on WGR 550. The puck drops at 7 p.m.

 

Development remains priority for Guhle

Video: Pregame: HOUSLEY

Despite having scored eight points (2+6) in his last 11 games, Housley said the Brendan Guhle has not yet received consideration for a recall to Buffalo. The coach explained that it's general manager Jason Botterill's decision to let the rookie continue to develop in the AHL. 

"That's Jason's decision," Housley said. "I think he's doing a great job developing where he is right now … He's in a good spot, he's playing well, he's getting the minutes right now that I think are going to help carry his game and develop him."

 

Scouting the Capitals

Washington enters the night having won three games in a row, including a 3-2 win in overtime against the Arizona Coyotes on Monday night. Alexander Ovechkin scored his team-leading 12th goal of the season in that game, tying him with John Tavares for second in the NHL. 

Along with Ovechkin, it's been many of usual suspects doing damage for the Capitals this season. Evgeny Kuznetsov leads the team with 18 points, including 15 assists, while Nicklas Backstrom (12 points), T.J Oshie (11) and John Carlson (11) have all racked up double-digit point totals.

"It's just a fact, you're going to end up playing defense at some point," Sabres forward Sam Reinhart said. "Those guys are world-class players … It's not a certain guy going out there individually, it's a team effort on the ice. If everyone does their job and takes their guy's space away, it's going to make it more challenging for them."

Ovechkin's goal on Monday came from a familiar location, a one-time shot from the left circle on the power play. Washington's overall numbers on the power play, however, are far from familiar. Their usually-lethal unit is 9-for-49 this season, which ranks 16th in the NHL, although their 29.2 percent clip on the road does rank fourth.

"Historically, Washington's always had really strong special teams," Housley said. "Every team goes through some of those times where they struggle in one area and they're better in the other right now. They have a great power play on the road, so we know we've got to focus on staying out of the box and being disciplined."

 

Getting in the zone

Like the Capitals, the Sabres have a power play that hasn't yet been able to capture the success it had last season. Kyle Okposo expressed confidence Tuesday that their top unit will get out of its funk, and the Sabres have at least been able to generate scoring chances with the extra man as of late. 

On some of their opportunities, like their first power play in Dallas on Saturday, the Sabres have struggled to gain the offensive zone. Housley said the key to a better entry begins with the defensemen moving faster up the ice.

"I think our outlet guys are getting a little ahead of the play and they're coming right into coverage," Housley said. "Our defensemen, when they turn the corner, they've got to get up ice and they've got to lead the charge and then you're options will open up as they go. 

"When you've got guys getting too far ahead of the play, it's pretty difficult because when they're getting that pass they're getting jumped on right away, so I'd like to see our D come up with speed."

 

Projected lineup

9 Evander Kane - 15 Jack Eichel - 29 Jason Pominville
67 Benoit Pouliot - 90 Ryan O'Reilly - 21 Kyle Okposo
13 Nicholas Baptiste - 23 Sam Reinhart - 25 Seth Griffith
28 Zemgus Girgensons - 22 Johan Larsson - 17 Jordan Nolan

6 Marco Scandella - 41 Justin Falk
19 Jake McCabe - 27 Taylor Fedun
93 Victor Antipin - 38 Zach Redmond

40 Robin Lehner
31 Chad Johnson

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