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With Lehner sick, Nilsson to start against Flyers

Carrier to return; Reinhart back at center

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber /

Anders Nilsson was in net the last time the Buffalo Sabres faced the Philadelphia Flyers, when late-game penalties opened the door for Philadelphia to erase a 3-0 deficit in the third period and eventually win 4-3 in a shootout. With the flu bug continuing to bite in the Buffalo dressing room, Nilsson will again man the net when the Sabres get their second chance against the Flyers on Tuesday.

While William Carrier will return to the lineup following a two-game absence with the flu, Robin Lehner will be unable to play due to the same illness. Nilsson, who is 4-0-1 with a .951 save percentage in his last five home games, will start in Lehner's place while a recall from Rochester will be made to serve as backup.

Dan Bylsma said Monday that he expects an "emotional" game between a Flyers team that is 2-5-3 in its last 10 games and a Sabres team looking to carry the momentum from their third-period comeback against Winnipeg on Saturday. Nilsson said he expects the same, but stressed the importance of his team not worrying too much about what the Flyers plan to do.

"I know they're going to come out hard," Nilsson said. "They had a little low period there, today they're going to come out hard. We have to expect that. They have some skilled guys … For us, we can't think too much about them, we need to focus on our own game because when we play the way we should and the way we need to, we're a really good team."

If the Winnipeg game is going to end up standing as the "turnaround game" it felt like for the Sabres, they'll need to start better against the Flyers than they did against the Jets. The Sabres have developed a knack for coming back in games at home, as they've done against Los Angeles, both New York teams and most recently Winnipeg, but they're still searching for a consistent 60-minute effort.

"It starts with how we start this game," alternate captain Ryan O'Reilly said. "It's really important that we come out with that same energy, that mindset where we're not thinking, we're playing. I think the last two games we got too much in our head, thinking, and you could see it.

"… Once we kind of get back to where we're out of our heads, we're playing hockey, we're competing, we're not over-thinking it, that's' what we have to establish right away. At this time of the season, we've seen every team. We have a good idea about what we're going to see. It's about getting competitive and winning battles right away and that's what we have to do."

The other key for the Sabres on Tuesday may be staying out the penalty box, which is what eventually sunk them in the first meeting in Philadelphia in October. All three of the Flyers' third-period goals in that game came on the power play.

While the Flyers' power play has been cold as of late - they're just 3-for-32 (9.4 percent) in their last 12 games - it still ranks ninth in the NHL this season at 21.5 percent.

"I think every game you go against the Flyers you've got to be concerned about their power play," Bylsma said. "Their numbers aren't as great as their power play is right now, still 21 percent and still a darn good power play, but that's got to be one of the most if not the most dangerous power play in the League and one you've always got to worry about when you play them."

Video: BYLSMA: Pregame Interview

Coverage on Tuesday 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 Flyers at 7 p.m.


100 for Jack

The game will mark the 100th in Jack Eichel's young career. While his abilities with the puck have been clear since game No. 1, Bylsma spoke Tuesday morning about how he's seen Eichel develop into more of a complete two-way player since his debut in the NHL.  

"He worked extremely hard last year on becoming a more of a complete player on both ends of the rink, both sides of the puck, and he's still working to do that," Bylsma said. "I think he's gotten better at that. He's been thrusted into situations this year with our injury situation where he's been both the top centerman and the checking centerman in different games. 

"We've put him out in situations where he's had to play defense against top guys, win draws and battle down low and he's done that. He's really that player for us, he's got to continue to grow in that area. But when you say 100 games deep, you start to get to 100 and 200 games and you're starting to get to be a veteran player. To think he's already got his 100th, it's happened pretty fast."


Projected lineup

After practicing on a line with Eichel on Monday, Sam Reinhart will once again start the game centering a line with Evander Kane and Kyle Okposo on Tuesday. Having said that, you can still expect to see Reinhart deployed on a line with Eichel when the situation allows it. 

"We just don't have a ton down the middle with the injury to [Johan] Larsson," Bylsma said. "Again, I still want to see our top six forwards being in top six positions. Sam has done a good job at center, we're going to need him there tonight, but I also think you're going to see the lines shrink a little bit given the time of the game and the situation in the game and see Sam play next to Jack."

48 William Carrier - 90 Ryan O'Reilly - 21 Kyle Okposo
82 Marcus Foligno - 15 Jack Eichel - 12 Brian Gionta
9 Evander Kane - 23 Sam Reinhart - 56 Justin Bailey
44 Nicolas Deslauriers - 28 Zemgus Girgensons - 26 Matt Moulson

29 Jake McCabe - 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
47 Zach Bogosian - 6 Cody Franson
41 Justin Falk - 38 Taylor Fedun

31 Anders Nilsson

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