The Buffalo Sabres are back for their first game since the 2019 NHL Global Series and there will be some changes to the roster from last weekend.
Defenseman Marco Scandella is ready to return from a lower-body injury, however, forward Marcus Johansson is slated to miss tonight's game and this weekend's back-to-back set due to an upper-body injury.
Scandella will skate on a pair with Henri Jokiharju tonight when Buffalo faces the Carolina Hurricanes at KeyBank Center. Faceoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. with the GMC Game Night pregame show getting underway at 6:30 on MSG.
The Sabres currently have eight healthy defensemen on the roster with Zach Bogosian also nearing a return, so coach Ralph Krueger is facing some tough decisions when it comes to his nightly lineup.
"We like the internal competition. We think it creates a healthy atmosphere because the professionalism of the guys who have had to take that difficult role of watching has been excellent," Krueger said. "They're keeping themselves ready to play and still supporting the group. We haven't seen anything but support."
Buffalo is about to enter a stretch of five games in eight days.
"So internal competition is a good thing and with the games we have coming up, we're going to need the depth on defense, I'm quite certain of that," Krueger said.
"We can just make a call game-to-game depending on, also, the opposition and what we think is best for the team. But we liked the Scandella/Jokiharju pair when they were together and let's see how they do today."
Colin Miller and John Gilmour will be the odd men out against Carolina, but for future games, Krueger did not rule out using 11 forwards and seven defensemen.
Video: PREGAME: Krueger
At forward, Curtis Lazar will put on a Buffalo sweater for the first time this regular season. The forward signed with Buffalo as a free agent on July 1 and has had a strong start to the 2019-20 campaign in Rochester.
Prior to his recall on Wednesday, Lazar had recorded nine points (4+5) in his last nine games with the Rochester Americans (AHL). He posted a career-best five points (2+3) on Oct. 26 at Syracuse and scored goals in each of the team's last two games.
"We're quite happy with his overall ability to play multiple roles for us," Krueger said. "He'll be asked to penalty kill here today. We also believe he can add depth scoring into the roster, that he can add some grit and bite. Let's just let him go and play today and we'll reassess it then.
"But we see a player that has multiple assets that can be used depending on what the team needs. His ability to play center and wing and all of that shows the intelligence that he has for the game."
Lazar talked about the opportunity in yesterday's Ice Level Practice Report.
68 Victor Olofsson - 9 Jack Eichel - 23 Sam Reinhart
28 Zemgus Girgensons - 22 Johan Larsson - 21 Kyle Okposo
53 Jeff Skinner - 71 Evan Rodrigues - 43 Conor Sheary
13 Jimmy Vesey - 37 Casey Mittelstadt - 27 Curtis Lazar
19 Jake McCabe - 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
26 Rasmus Dahlin - 62 Brandon Montour
6 Marco Scandella - 10 Henri Jokiharju
40 Carter Hutton
35 Linus Ullmark
100 games for Dahlin
Rasmus Dahlin is expected to appear in his 100th NHL game tonight.
The 19-year-old defenseman leads all Sabres blue liners with 12 points and is tied for the team lead with 11 assists this season. He enters the game with 56 career points (10+46) through his first 99 NHL games.
"For Dahlin, it's all about finding the ability within the power play, where his genius is at play all the time -the way he solves pressure and the way he keeps power plays alive and creates opportunity for us," Krueger said. "Then the game changes 5-on-5 and making that switch and being able to do the same and wait for those opportunities versus forcing them is something he's getting better at all the time."
Among defensemen throughout franchise history to debut with the Sabres, only Phil Housley (30+64) matched or surpassed Dahlin's minimum of 56 points through the first 100 regular-season games of his career.