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by Chris Ryndak / Buffalo Sabres

The Buffalo Sabres opened the 2015 calendar year with an afternoon practice at First Niagara Center.

Defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen skated with the team again as he recovers from the flu. He was reunited at practice on a pairing with Nikita Zadorov and Ristolainen was back at the point with the first power-play unit.

Ristolainen left early in the second period of the team’s game on Dec. 27 and has missed the past two contests.

“We certainly missed him for the last little bit so we’re looking forward to, knock on wood, if everything goes good, he’ll be in the lineup tomorrow,” Sabres coach Ted Nolan said, knocking on the podium he was situated in front of.

The Sabres are set to take on the Florida Panthers at home Friday night at 7 p.m. before embarking on a four-game road trip that starts Saturday night against the New York Rangers. Buffalo will play five games in eight nights.

With Ristolainen about ready to return, the Sabres sent Mark Pysyk back to the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League.

Tyler Myers will likely rejoin the team at some point on the road trip. He’s missed five games with a lower-body injury.

After a disappointing loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday in which the team recorded only one shot on goal in the third period, the coaching staff changed up some line combinations at practice on Thursday.

Brian Flynn moved back to the wing and skated with center Mikhail Grigorenko and right wing Chris Stewart. Center Cody McCormick moved up between Cody Hodgson and Drew Stafford and Johan Larsson was back in the middle, centering a line featuring Nicolas Deslauriers and Patrick Kaleta.

The team has been battling sickness and injuries that have forced some of the changes. With Torrey Mitchell, Brian Gionta and Marcus Foligno hurt, the team has had trouble finding scoring outside of the top line of Zemgus Girgensons, Matt Moulson and Tyler Ennis.

We changed up a couple line combinations just to shake it up a little bit. Hopefully by shaking it up, we get a different result,” Nolan said. “Everything’s a little bit out of whack, but by switching it up here today, hopefully, we’ll settle the waters down here a little bit and get back to the way we were [playing].”

Jhonas Enroth started Wednesday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning and wasn’t happy with his performance. He allowed five goals on 25 shots, including three in the third period.

His frustration came to a boil at the end of the game when he snapped his stick in half against the goal post and heaved it into the corner as time expired.

“I wasn’t happy with giving up five goals and I’d given up four goals the night before that,” Enroth said after practice Thursday. “It’s been a little bit frustrating the last couple games giving up a couple goals here. It was definitely not a good run.”

Buffalo is 1-5-1 over the past seven games and has been outscored 33-15 over that span. Nolan would like to see the team keep a calmer demeanor as they work their way through this tough stretch and he spoke with Enroth about his outburst.

“We had a good talk about that. We’re all frustrated, but one thing about frustration, you have to keep it in control,” Nolan said. “Once you lose control – we’re all frustrated at certain points, but if you start finger pointing and blaming, that’s no good either. I understand the frustration but you have to make sure you stay focused on what your responsibility is.”

26 Matt Moulson – 28 Zemgus Girgensons – 63 Tyler Ennis
65 Brian Flynn – 25 Mikhail Grigorenko – 80 Chris Stewart
19 Cody Hodgson – 8 Cody McCormick – 21 Drew Stafford
44 Nicolas Deslauriers – 22 Johan Larsson – 36 Patrick Kaleta

4 Josh Gorges – 24 Tyson Strachan
51 Nikita Zadorov – 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
61 Andre Benoit – 41 Andrej Meszaros

1 Jhonas Enroth
34 Michal Neuvirth

Did Not Practice: 6 Mike Weber (maintenance day), 12 Brian Gionta (injured reserve, upper body), 17 Torrey Mitchell (injured reserve, lower body), 57 Tyler Myers (injured reserve, lower body), 82 Marcus Foligno (injured reserve, hand)

First Unit

Second Unit

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