Victor Olofsson and Kyle Okposo could both be back in the lineup for the Buffalo Sabres against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday, coach Ralph Krueger said.
Olofsson, who positioned himself as a potential Calder Trophy candidate with 16 goals and 35 points in 42 games, has been out since Jan. 2 with a lower-body injury. Okposo has missed six games with an upper-body ailment sustained on Jan. 30.
Both were in their regular homes for practice on Wednesday: Olofsson on the left wing alongside Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart, Okposo on the right wing next to Zemgus Girgensons and Johan Larsson. Olofsson was also back on the first power-play unit, manning the right flank.
"Victor Olofsson and Kyle Okposo both showed good signs here today," Krueger said. "We're going to assess post-practice and take a final look in the morning, but it looks like they're an option already for tomorrow. But we'll make that final call, again, tomorrow."
Olofsson returned to practice Saturday, while Okposo first joined the team for its morning skate on Tuesday. In each case, Krueger originally expected multiple practices to be necessary before the players would be reacclimated for game action.
"What we like is just how good the rehabs work here and how fit they feel within a couple of days," Krueger said. "I've seen this multiple times this year, so it's just a compliment to the work that's being done in the preparation for these players returning. We just like where they're at right now and it's looking good."
The Sabres did practice without forward Marcus Johansson, who took a maintenance day after tallying a goal and an assist in the win over Detroit on Tuesday. Krueger said Johansson is day-to-day with an upper-body injury and will be re-evaluated prior to Thursday's game.
Next up, Columbus
While the Sabres are getting healthier, the Blue Jackets have been struck hard by injuries.
It was announced Tuesday that All-Star defenseman Seth Jones will miss eight to 10 weeks after undergoing surgery to repair a fractured ankle. Today, forward Cam Atkinson was ruled out two to three weeks with an ankle sprain.
The Sabres will host the Blue Jackets looking to build on their 3-2 win over Detroit, which saw them erase deficits of 1-0 and 2-1 before pulling ahead in the third period. Krueger was pleased with the resiliency, but said the greater lesson is the need for a better start against a Blue Jackets team that ranks second in the NHL in goals against (137).
"We can't be accepting falling behind at home over and over again," Krueger said. "So, working for a lead tomorrow against a team as defensively powerful as Columbus will be extremely important. But we love the resiliency of the group yesterday and the reaction."
2000s Night is Thursday
The Sabres will celebrate the decade that brought us memorable back-to-back runs to the Eastern Conference Final, the Presidents' Trophy, and the inaugural Winter Classic.
Seventeen alumni are scheduled to attend, including Daniel Briere, Brian Campbell, Tim Connolly, Paul Gaustad, and Jason Pominville. Find the full list of alumni and more information on the festivities here.
In the meantime, get in the spirit with looks back at some of the memorable moments from the decade:
Video: Sabres Memories: Scary Good Goal Call
Video: Inside the Numbers: 2006's 7-6 win vs. Ottawa
Video: BBG: The Ottawa Brawl
Lines at practice
68 Victor Olofsson - 9 Jack Eichel - 23 Sam Reinhart
13 Jimmy Vesey - 27 Curtis Lazar - 43 Conor Sheary
53 Jeff Skinner - 71 Evan Rodrigues - 67 Michael Frolik / 20 Scott Wilson
28 Zemgus Girgensons - 22 Johan Larsson - 21 Kyle Okposo
62 Brandon Montour - 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
19 Jake McCabe - 10 Henri Jokiharju
26 Rasmus Dahlin - 33 Colin Miller
24 Lawrence Pilut - 4 Zach Bogosian
40 Carter Hutton
34 Jonas Johansson