When today began, the Sabres had two players who had been referred to by coach Dan Bylsma as day-to-day and were questionable for their home game tonight against the New Jersey Devils. One of those players was Ryan O'Reilly, who was a full participant in the morning skate. The other was Dmitry Kulikov, who was absent and has been ruled out for the game tonight.
Bylsma was careful to stress that O'Reilly remains a game-time decision, but admitted that his alternate captain had made it through his morning skate without issue. O'Reilly himself said he felt good and ready to return to a lineup that could use his offensive production. The Sabres were held to one goal with O'Reilly absent against the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday and were shut out against the Bruins in the game prior.
"I think it's on myself and a few others," O'Reilly said when asked how to boost the team's scoring. "The last few games I've been playing, I think I'm trying to shoot as many pucks as I can, getting things to the net. It might be taking a step back from that. It might be possessing the puck, getting the premium scoring opportunities. Going in tonight, that's going to be a focus."
On defense, meanwhile, Justin Falk has been recalled for the first time this season to replace Kulikov in the lineup. Falk is a native of Snowflake, Man., which is a fact that comprisesone-third of the town's Wikipedia page. He's also a veteran with 171 NHL games under his belt, meaning the transition from the AHL shouldn't be anything new.
"Over the last two, three years I've hopped back and forth quite a bit, so just another day for me to go about my business," Falk said. "It's just a different league, a higher-up league, so I'm going to bring my game to the best of my ability and take this as an opportunity to showcase myself."
Falk characterized his style of play on the back end as simple and reliable.
"I just want to be solid and steady," Falk said. "There's nothing fancy about my game. Hard to play against, play hard in front of my net and hopefully move the puck out quick to our forwards in transition and just try to bring reliability to the back end."
Falk may get more than one chance to prove himself. The Sabres play the Devils again in New Jersey on Saturday night, and Bylsma said that Kulikov remains questionable for that game as well. Bylsma also said that the Sabres are likely to travel with an extra forward given their injury situation.
The puck drops between the Sabres and Devils at 7 p.m. It will be Military Appreciation Night at KeyBank Center, and the Sabres are offering all active, reserve, National Guard and retired military personnel the opportunity to purchase tickets in the 300 Level for $25. Visit sabres.com/military to purchase tickets, or click here for more information on the night.
Coverage of the game begins at 6:30 p.m. with the TOPS Pregame Show on MSG-B, or you can listen live on WGR 550.
Nilsson to start in net
With the Sabres and Devils set to meet on back-to-back nights for their home-and-home set, the game tonight will be a battle of backup goaltenders between Anders Nilsson and Keith Kinkaid. It might not feel that way, however, given Nilsson's performance this season. He's 1-1-1 with a .937 save percentage and a 1.96 goals-against average in three starts. He's also coming off a 33-save shutout in his last start, against the Florida Panthers on Oct. 29.
"You're just as confident putting him in the net on a back-to-back night like we're having here with New Jersey as really you are with the starter," Bylsma said. "He's shown that he can go in and do that for the team and he's given us the confidence, all of us, that he's going to go in there and give us a great game."
Eichel returns to the ice
Jack Eichel has begun skating as the next step in his rehabilitation from a high-ankle sprain. Bylsma said that Eichel skated for 25 minutes on Thursday and increased his session to 45 minutes this morning. He reached the four-week mark in his recovery on Wednesday.
The new Devil
New Jersey is known for its grind-it-out style of play, but the Devils have a bit of a different look up front now with the offseason addition of Taylor Hall from the Edmonton Oilers. Hall, the first overall pick by the Oilers in the 2010 draft, is tied for the team lead with nine points (5+4) in 12 games. Fellow newcomer P.A. Parenteau has also scored five goals.
"He gives them a dynamic offensive piece and he's been that for them," Bylsma said of Hall. "You just watch the tape, he's immediately a top-end, dynamic offensive player for them and that's something they've really been doing by committee offensively for the past couple of years.