SUNRISE, Fla. - Zach Bogosian will make his season debut for the Sabres when they visit the Florida Panthers tonight at BB&T Center.
Buffalo will dress seven defensemen and 11 forwards. Curtis Lazar will be scratched up front to make room for Bogosian in the lineup. Colin Miller will sit on defense.
It will be Bogosian's first game since March 23. The defenseman missed all of training camp as he recovered from offseason hip surgery. He skated on his own for roughly a month prior to joining the team for practice on Nov. 13.
"It's been a long time. The team is here to support him," Sabres coach Ralph Krueger said. "I think going with seven D helps Zach to know there's support and he can find his rhythm. We'll see how much he can handle, and we'll take it a shift at a time.
"He'll be a huge addition to our penalty killing. He's already a big addition as a person in the room and it's clear Zach Bogosian will be an important part of our future here."
Video: PREGAME: Ralph Krueger
In addition to providing flexibility to ease Bogosian's transition, Krueger said the decision to dress seven defensemen was made with consideration to potential looks on the power play and penalty kill. At 5-on-5, it can present matchup difficulties for the opposing team.
"It will be more about us creating pace through that and having good, quick line changes, using everybody," he said. "It's not about top-minute guys getting more minutes. It's more about spreading out.
"… I think it's quite a creative way to play in a system like ours where it's pretty clear what you have to do, no matter who you're on the ice with, whether you're right, left or center. It doesn't mean as much as some of the more structured formations here in the league, and I think also for the D there's a certain awareness that when you have different linemates, different D pairs that principles and concepts are more important, really, than thinking outside the box. We need a good team game today and we feel this will set us up for it."
Linus Ullmark will start in net. He made 41 saves in the first meeting between the teams this season, a 3-2 shootout victory in Buffalo on Oct. 11.
Scouting the Panthers
Florida is coming off a 4-2 road loss to Carolina on Saturday. It snapped a three-game winning streak for the Panthers, who rank second in the Atlantic Division with 29 points.
The Panthers rank second in the NHL with an average of 3.61 goals per game, though their average of 3.52 goals against is the third-highest mark in the league.
Jonathan Huberdeau leads Florida with 30 points (10+20) in 23 games. Aleksander Barkov is right behind him at 29 (7+22), and both rank in the NHL's top 11.
Coverage on MSG begins at 4:30 p.m., or you can listen live on WGR 550. The puck drops at 5.