Ryan O'Reilly was back on the ice with the Buffalo Sabres this morning after missing five of the last six games with an oblique injury. Making his return to the lineup, however, will require a bit more patience. O'Reilly did not participate in line work or power-play drills and will be scratched again tonight against the Calgary Flames.
"If we're in the playoffs it's a different situation," O'Reilly said following the team's morning skate at KeyBank Center. "But there's a lot of hockey left and it is frustrating right now, obviously we're not where we want to be these last few games. We need to score goals, and obviously that's one of my jobs and not being able to do it is very frustrating. But, again, we've got a good staff here and I've got to trust them and be smart with it."
O'Reilly said playing in Buffalo's next game, at home against Detroit on Wednesday, is "very doable" and Sabres coach Dan Bylsma agreed that the team expects him back in the lineup later this week.
"We'd all like him to play," Bylsma said. "He wanted to play in the Pittsburgh game and I wanted him to play in the Pittsburgh game but he's still progressing back to full health and the injury is such that it's a high-area injury and he'll use it every second he's on the ice."
Video: PREVIEW: CGY at BUF (11/21/16)
With O'Reilly on the verge of a return, the Sabres' could see their lineup revert closer to normal sooner rather than later. Jack Eichel (high-ankle sprain) skated for the seventh time Monday, Bylsma said, and the team hopes for him to join his teammates at practice in the near future.
The Flames enter tonight's game dealing with an injury to one of its own top players, with Johnny Gaudreau expected to miss six weeks with a broken finger. Gaudreau led the Flames last season with 78 points (30+48).
Still, Calgary has won three of its last four games including a 3-2 win in Detroit on Sunday. The Sabres are coming off a 2-1 shootout win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday, and Bylsma said that they'll need to play with the same desperation and attention to detail tonight as they did in that game in order to edge out a victory without two of their top offensive weapons.
"We certainly didn't keep Pittsburgh off the board in terms of scoring chances or shots - they had chances - but I think throughout the game we were more conscience on the defensive side of the puck and playing defensively and limiting their odd-man situations," Bylsma said.
"That's something that can't change for us just because we're not playing the Pittsburgh Penguins. It can't change for us. That's how we're gonna have to play to win hockey games at this point in time and we can't let down our guard just because we got a shootout victory against the Penguins."
The Flames earned a 4-3 overtime victory in the first meeting between these two teams this season on Oct. 18 in Calgary. The Sabres had two separate third-period leads in that game but lost on Sean Monahan's goal in the extra period.
"I thought that we could've played a better game against them and we still came out with a point, so there's a lot more there for us," said Marcus Foligno, who scored a goal in that game. "I think everybody feels comfortable playing against them, I mean we know what their system is like and their tendencies around the net and things like that. We've got to make sure that we're keeping the same kind of paly that we had last game where we're not making risky plays."
Robin Lehner will start in net for the Sabres. Coverage of the game begins with the TOPS Pregame Show, or you can listen live on WGR 550. The puck drops at 7 p.m.
Flames focus: defensive fire power
The Flames have two players who rank among the top 10 in the NHL in shots by a defenseman in Dougie Hamilton (fifth, 51 shots) and Mark Giordano (10th, 49 shots). It was that shooting mentality on the back end that helped them win in Detroit on Sunday, as Hamilton earned primary assists on Calgary's first and second goals with shots from the point.
Bylsma said that preventing those defensive contributions will be a key to the game for the Sabres.
"Some of their strengths that we've watched and were evident again last night are their D-men were a huge part of their offense," Bylsma said. "They're four on the rush a lot, [with TJ Brodie] jumping up. But it's not just Brodie jumping up, it's Giordano and Hamilton and in the offensive zone their shots from the point are evident. They were evident in the game against us last time we played them.
"That's how they get their offense. It's in the offensive zone, low to high and their D have a large amount of shots from the point. Two of their goals last night were evidence of that."
9 Evander Kane - 22 Johan Larsson - 21 Kyle Okposo
82 Marcus Foligno - 23 Sam Reinhart - 12 Brian Gionta
28 Zemgus Girgensons - 19 Cal O'Reilly - 26 Matt Moulson
48 William Carrier - 27 Derek Grant - 10 Cole Schneider
4 Josh Gorges - 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
29 Jake McCabe - 6 Cody Franson
41 Justin Falk - 38 Taylor Fedun
40 Robin Lehner
31 Anders Nilsson