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SABRES HOPE TO STAY HOT ON THE MAN ADVANTAGE

by Chris Ryndak / Buffalo Sabres

The Buffalo Sabres will continue to ride the hot hand in goal Friday night.

Anders Lindback will start his fifth-straight game and make his eighth-straight appearance. In seven games played, he has a .934 save percentage and a 2.53 goals-against average for Buffalo.

Defenseman Andrej Meszaros will be back in the lineup for the Sabres after missing the past two games with a hand injury. He originally sustained the injury while gloving down a puck on March 7 in Washington and has dealing with it ever since. The Sabres are set to take on the New Jersey Devils at 7 p.m. from First Niagara Center.

The Tops Game Night pregame show begins at 6:30 p.m. on MSG-B and Bell. The game can also be heard live on WGR 550.

Meszaros will find a spot on the second power-play unit, which will try to match the production Buffalo has seen from the first unit.

With Zach Bogosian out with a lower-body injury, the Sabres coaching staff moved Tyler Ennis to the point on the first unit two games ago and so far, it’s paid off.

Ennis and Rasmus Ristolainen have combined for two power-play goals in the past two games. Ristolainen’s goal early in the third period on Tuesday tied the game against Boston and set the team up for a victory in the shootout.

“[Assistant coach] Bryan Trottier talked to the team about darting in, darting out, switching positions, moving around, creating some havoc for the penalty killers and it seemed to be working,” Sabres coach Ted Nolan said after the morning skate. “Right now, they’re moving the puck well. They got a beautiful goal with Ennis’ goal and last game, Ristolainen’s goal was like that too.”

Sabres captain Brian Gionta has seen improvements in Ristolainen’s game and thinks that the space Ennis has helped create on the power play has been beneficial. Ennis’ creativity on the point has been a welcome addition.

“It’s gives you a different dynamic,” Gionta said. “[Ennis] moves well up there, he’s mobile and he’s unpredictable – I think that’s the biggest thing. He’s not just stagnant back there.”

Nolan has been impressed with Ennis’ play all season. He leads the team in goals (18) and points (38).

“Somebody asked me, ‘Who’s the most consistent player on this team and the most valuable player on the team this year?’” Nolan said. “[It’s] Tyler Ennis by far.”


COULD BE A LONG NIGHT
Ten of the Sabres’ past 18 games against the Devils have been decided in overtime or the shootout, including seven of the past 10.

Since the beginning of the 2007-08 season, Buffalo has participated in more shootouts against New Jersey than any other non-divisional opponent. Twelve of those 27 games have gone to the skills competition and Buffalo has a 7-5 record over that stretch.


DEVELOPING SOME CONSISTENCY
Buffalo has picked up points in three of its past four games. The team has seen a better overall effort as of late that they’d like to keep building on.

“Minus the one hiccup in Washington there, we’ve had one-goal games. We’ve been in every game, giving ourselves a chance,” Gionta said. “Obviously we won one in the shootout, but we’d like to get one in regulation here and continue to improve. Our consistency’s been much better.”


PROJECTED LINEUP
26 Matt Moulson – 22 Johan Larsson – 63 Tyler Ennis
82 Marcus Foligno – 84 Philip Varone – 12 Brian Gionta
44 Nicolas Deslauriers – 59 Tim Schaller – 19 Cody Hodgson
49 Jerry D’Amigo – 37 Matt Ellis – 20 Zac Dalpe

6 Mike Weber – 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
51 Nikita Zadorov – 41 Andrej Meszaros
61 Andre Benoit – 24 Tyson Strachan

35 Anders Lindback
31 Matt Hackett

Scratched: 5 Chad Ruhwedel, 33 Chad Johnson (lower body injury), 47 Zach Bogosian (lower body injury)
Injured Reserve: 4 Josh Gorges (lower body), 8 Cody McCormick (blood clots), 9 Evander Kane (shoulder), 28 Zemgus Girgensons (lower body), 36 Patrick Kaleta (lower body)

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