Brandon Montour will make his season debut when the Sabres host the New York Islanders tonight at KeyBank Center.
Montour sustained a hand injury during the team's second game of the preseason, in Columbus on Sept. 17. He has been practicing with the team since last Sunday.
Jimmy Vesey will also return to the lineup after missing the past three games with an upper-body injury. Evan Rodrigues and John Gilmour will be scratched to make room for the returning players. Coach Ralph Krueger said the lines and pairs will be decided prior to warmups.
The Sabres are looking to rebound from a 6-1 loss in Washington on Friday, just their third regulation loss of the season. In each of the two prior instances, they responded with a shutout victory the following night.
"One of the big helpers for creating, actually, an identity is having a bad night," Krueger said. "It's not fun when you're in it. It's an excellent confirmation of what we need to do. So, we're expecting quite a reaction tonight for overall the way we played yesterday.
"That's generally my approach is the really bad nights are there to use as a confirmation of habits that need to happen here to play, especially against the top teams in the National Hockey League."
Video: PREGAME: Krueger
Krueger once again stressed defensive consistency as the primary point of emphasis, not only in keeping opposing teams off the board but in creating offensive chances.
"A lot of it has to do with how we're playing defensively and the opportunities that come out of good defensive play, especially through the neutral zone, and we need to get better at that again," he said.
"I think that that's something that's still not a habit within the group and we lost our connection a little bit there, forwards trying sometimes to forecheck in situations that were gone and D not staying up as aggressively as they were early in the season, and so the chances we're getting are a different caliber."
Carter Hutton will start in net. He's coming off a 42-save effort in Buffalo's shootout loss to Arizona on Monday.
Scouting the Islanders
The Islanders have maintained the same simple, defensive identity that carried them to the playoffs last season in their first year under coach Barry Trotz. They have won their last eight games, having held opponents to two goals or less in seven of those contests.
New York's average of 2.42 goals against per game ranks sixth in the NHL.
"They just have a very patient culture where they are willing to wait until you give them an opportunity," Krueger said. "They're as good as any team right now at playing as one. They put a lot of pressure on teams when the opportunity's there, but they'll wait and defend very well if it's not.
"Offensively, they play simple, they play direct, they bring pucks to the net very quickly, aggressively. … It's the perfect time to play a team that's so well-structured and disciplined in their execution."
Josh Bailey (5+6) and Mathew Barzal (6+5) lead the Islanders with 11 points each. Derrick Brassard enters the contest riding a four-game goal streak.
Semyon Varlamov is expected to start in net. The veteran is 4-2-0 with a .918 save percentage through his first six appearances with New York.
It's '70s Night
More than 20 alumni are scheduled to be in attendance as the Sabres celebrate the first decade in franchise history. Find the full list, along with more details about tonight's game, here.
In the meantime, enjoy this blast from the past courtesy of Montour, Linus Ullmark, and Sam Reinhart.