Sam Reinhart and Zach Bogosian will make their exhibition debuts when the Buffalo Sabres host the Toronto Maple Leafs for their final home game of the preseason on Saturday night.
Reinhart and Bogosian returned to practice with the team on Thursday, the former after signing a new two-year contract and the latter after taking time to rest the hip on which he had season-ending surgery in January.
Phil Housley said the goal for both players in game No. 1 is to simply get adjusted to game speed.
"I think right now for Zach it's just getting his feet wet," Housley said. "He hasn't played a lot in the last two years. We're just making sure we're cautious with his injury moving forward. We had those two first tough days that really put a lot of stress on the hip, so just monitoring that.
"It's good to see him back in the lineup, but I think he's just got to keep the game simple. I know he's got a lot of pride in his game, but I think just taking those steps forward and get himself in a game, get himself comfortable and then moving forward onto that. But I'm happy that he's back in the lineup."
Bogosan appeared in just 18 games last season, the last of which he played on Jan. 9. His hip injury however, dates back further. The defenseman said he had been playing with the ailing hip for years before finally making the decision to undergo surgery and put it behind him.
With time and health, the 28-year-old believes he can be a defenseman the Sabres can rely upon in all situations.
"Yeah, I've played hurt for the last five years," he said. "I think that I have another level. I think I'm working my way to get there. Anytime you've been injured or been off for an extended period of time, it's going to take a little while to get things back.
"I have a whole new level to bring. I can be a lot more effective than I've been in the past. I'm looking forward to the challenge that's in front of me."
Video: GAME PREVIEW: TOR at BUF
Housley said he spoke with Reinhart on Friday and concluded that the forward was ready for game action despite his limited practice time. He'll skate on a line with Patrik Berglund and Evan Rodrigues and take his usual place at the net-front on the power play.
"I don't think my first two days would have been as tough as the other guys experienced so I'm pretty excited to get in tonight," he said. "At this point, everyone's in the same boat trying to get the rust off and trying to get into game shape. The best way to do that is hop into games."
Tonight's game can be seen live on MSG-B, or you can listen to Dan Dunleavy and Rob Ray on the call on WGR 550. Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m.
A chance for Thompson
Video: BUF@TOR: Thompson toe drags, snaps one by Sparks
After scoring a highlight-reel goal in Toronto on Friday (see above), Tage Thompson will get an opportunity to play on the top line alongside Jeff Skinner and Jack Eichel. He'll be the only player from Friday night's game in the lineup on Saturday.
Housley said Thompson earned the opportunity with his performance dating back to the Prospects Challenge.
"I really liked what he brought to the game last night, some speed, tenacity on the forecheck," Housley said. "He really used his speed in the right areas in the transition part of the game and had some good looks last night so we're just trying to find some different combinations playing with different players."
53 Jeff Skinner - 9 Jack Eichel - 72 Tage Thompson
73 Evan Rodrigues - 10 Patrik Berglund - 23 Sam Reinhart
95 Justin Bailey - 22 Johan Larsson - 21 Kyle Okposo
20 Scott Wilson - 51 Kyle Criscuolo - 64 Tyler Randell
6 Marco Scandella - 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
82 Nathan Beaulieu - 4 Zach Bogosian
26 Rasmus Dahlin - 19 Jake McCabe
40 Carter Hutton
31 Scott Wedgewood