Johan Larsson will be back in the lineup for the Buffalo Sabres when they host the Carolina Hurricanes tonight at KeyBank Center.
Larsson, who has missed the last two games with an upper-body injury, is expected to play on a line alongside Zemgus Girgensons and Vladimir Sobotka. Tage Thompson will be scratched to make room in the lineup.
"Larry's ready to go back in the lineup," Sabres coach Phil Housley said. "I think Larry's been playing solid hockey for us. Tage, for me, I think just the last couple games he wasn't playing the game that he played in Columbus, the way he was attacking the game.
"[Thompson] needs a little bit more battle, needs to show a little bit more speed, so he's going to take a step back but he's going to get another opportunity."
Video: GAME PREVIEW
The game carries significant weight in the standings with the Sabres and Hurricanes tied at 58 points apiece, three behind the Columbus Blue Jackets for the second Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference. It will be the second of three meetings between the two teams, who next meet in Carolina on March 16.
That said, as Housley attested to, playing meaningful games should be the Sabres' reality from here on out and has been for some time already.
"Every game at this point [is important] for that matter," Housley said. "I mean, that game against Minnesota was pretty important. It's great that we're facing a team that's been playing very good hockey as of late.
"They seem to have found their stride, and it's going to be a great challenge for us because they don't give you a lot of room. Analytically they're very good at both end of the rinks, expect a tight game and be comfortable in those situations, but every game from here on out is going to be important."
Larsson echoed his coach, emphasizing the need for the Sabres to focus on their own game while also embracing the opportunity at hand.
"It's fun," Larsson said. "The games are on the line here. Coming to the rink, it's nice. We're playing for a playoff spot so it's a nice feeling."
The Sabres are coming off a shootout win over the Wild on Tuesday, led by two-point performances from Sam Reinhart (1+1) and Jack Eichel (0+2) and a 41-save outing from Linus Ullmark. He'll be back in net tonight, marking his third start in four games.
"I think he's done a terrific job," Housley said of Ullmark. "He's sort of been dealt some bad hands, back-to-back situations, and risen to the occasion. I really liked how he attacked the game against Minnesota. He was strong."
Video: PREGAME: Housley
The Sabres are looking to snap a seven-game winless streak against the Hurricanes, an aspect of the matchup that Housley was acutely aware of.
"We haven't beaten this team since March of 2016," he said. "We're going to be ready. The guys in that room understand where we are.
"… It's just one of those things where, historically, they've had some success against us. But we always go back to any opponent we play, what we can control is our effort, the way we approach it, our start and all the things that go into the way we can play our game."
Coverage on MSG-B begins at 6:30 p.m. with the GMC Game Night pregame show, or you can listen live on WGR 550. The puck drops at 7.
Hockey is for Everyone
Video: Hockey Is For Everyone 2019
Tonight is Hockey is for Everyone Night at KeyBank Center, part of a league-wide initiative to promote the inclusion of players, coaches and fans of every race, religion, gender, sexual orientation and those with disabilities.
Players will use "Pride Tape" on their sticks during warmups, which will then be auctioned off from Feb. 8 at 5 p.m. to Feb. 17 at 9 p.m. at Sabres.com/Auctions. Proceeds will benefit The Pride Center of Western New York and Gay and Lesbian Services of Western New York.
More information on the night and the rest of the team's initiatives for Hockey is for Everyone Month can be found here.
53 Jeff Skinner - 9 Jack Eichel - 29 Jason Pominville
43 Conor Sheary - 37 Casey Mittelstadt - 23 Sam Reinhart
49 C.J. Smith - 71 Evan Rodrigues - 21 Kyle Okposo
28 Zemgus Girgensons - 22 Johan Larsson - 17 Vladimir Sobotka
26 Rasmus Dahlin - 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
24 Lawrence Pilut - 4 Zach Bogosian
6 Marco Scandella - 19 Jake McCabe
35 Linus Ullmark
40 Carter Hutton
*Based on Wednesday's practice and subject to change