UPDATE (2 p.m.) -- Defensemen Mark Pysyk and Jake McCabe have been recalled from the AHL's Rochester Americans. Click here for more info.
The Buffalo Sabres will need some help on the blue line Sunday evening.
Tyson Strachan and Nikita Zadorov did not participate in the morning skate and will not play against the Nashville Predators, leaving Buffalo with only four healthy defensemen.
Zadorov will miss at least Sunday’s game due to “team reasons.”
“It’s just part of the growing process. But this one here, we’ll just have to deal with him,” Sabres coach Ted Nolan said. “He’s a 19 years old. Sometimes you’re mature in certain things, sometimes you’re not. Unfortunately, we’ll have to deal with him.
“…It’s what we’re dealing with. It’s tough. It’s tough on the team overall. But like I said, I’d rather not discuss it publicly.”
Zadorov was previously suspended by the team after the All-Star Break for missing the first practice back. This season, he has three goals and 10 assists in 42 games.
“We’ve had a number of discussions and then another thing happened this morning so we’ll talk to him again,” Nolan said.
In the case of Strachan, Nolan said he came down with an infection overnight and will miss the game.
The team is already without alternate captains Josh Gorges and Mike Weber. Gorges has missed the past four games due to a lower-body injury and had been debating season-ending surgery. On Sunday, Nolan confirmed that Gorges will have surgery and should be ready by the time training camp opens in September.
Weber sustained an upper-body injury in the first period of Friday night’s game against the Rangers and will miss a minimum of two weeks after having “a little, minor repair done,” according to Nolan.
When Weber was ruled out last game, forward Nicolas Deslauriers filled in on defense for two periods.
The team has relied on Gorges and Weber in key situations this year including on the penalty kill. They are also leaders on the team when it comes to blocked shots.
Their absence opens up the door for an increased role for sophomore defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen.
“They are huge for us and now other guys have to step up,” Ristolainen said. “I think I’m ready for it and if I get some PK time, I will do everything that I can to keep the puck away from our net.”
The Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League are set to host the Syracuse Crunch on Sunday and two recalls are more than likely on their way to Buffalo. Nolan wasn’t sure after the morning skate as to who would be joining the team.
Michal Neuvirth will start his fifth-straight game for Buffalo. In the four games since the Sabres traded Jhonas Enroth to the Dallas Stars, Neuvirth has a .945 save percentage and a 1.93 goals-against average.
The Sabres take on the Predators at 6 p.m. The Tops Game Night pregame show begins at 5:30 p.m. on MSG-B and Bell. The game can also be heard live on WGR 550.
At 39-13-7, the opponent tonight is currently in first place in the NHL by four points. Although they come into the contest against Buffalo having lost back-to-back games for the first time this season, Nashville has not yet to go two consecutive games without a point. They lost 3-2 to the Philadelphia Flyers in a shootout on Saturday.
To counter the Predators’ attack Sabres captain Brian Gionta said his club needs to stay on its toes and play smart.
“You’ve got to make sure you’re on top of your game, you’re not sitting back,” he said. “When you sit back, you lose your time and space. You’ve got to match their speed, making sure that you get the puck and know what you’re doing when you get to it – that you’re not surprised by their forecheck or their pressure all over.”
WELCOME TO TOWN
Evander Kane is in Buffalo and watched the morning skate from the bench. Buffalo acquired him along with defenseman Zach Bogosian and a goaltending prospect on Feb. 11 from the Winnipeg Jets.
Kane underwent shoulder surgery earlier in the month and will miss the rest of the regular season while he rehabs. He’s left a good impression on his new teammates so far.
“He seems great. It’s nice to have him here and meeting the guys and being a part of things,” Gionta said. “Obviously we’d like him healthy and hopefully he gets that way by training camp.”
80 Chris Stewart – 28 Zemgus Girgensons – 63 Tyler Ennis
26 Matt Moulson – 17 Torrey Mitchell – 12 Brian Gionta
82 Marcus Foligno – 65 Brian Flynn – 44 Nicolas Deslauriers
22 Johan Larsson – 37 Matt Ellis – 19 Cody Hodgson
61 Andre Benoit – 47 Zach Bogosian
41 Andrej Meszaros – 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
29 Jake McCabe – 3 Mark Pysyk
34 Michal Neuvirth
35 Anders Lindback
Scratched: 51 Nikita Zadorov
Injured: 4 Josh Gorges (lower body), 6 Mike Weber (upper body), 8 Cody McCormick (injured reserve, blood clots), 9 Evander Kane (injured reserve, shoulder), 24 Tyson Strachan (infection), 36 Patrick Kaleta (lower body)