Rasmus Ristolainen began to feel ill ahead of the Sabres' game in Ottawa last Tuesday, forcing the defenseman to be scratched from the lineup for the first time this season. Since then, he's spent a few days in bed and a few more looking to rebuild the strength he lost while sick.
The fact that the Sabres dropped four games in that span only made matters worse.
"You can't help the guys from the gym, so it's been tough to watch," Ristolainen said after skating with the team this morning. "Hard times, but hard times make tough people."
Ristolainen will return to the lineup when the Sabres host the Nashville Predators tonight at KeyBank Center. Rookie defenseman William Borgen will be scratched to make room in the lineup.
The Sabres will be without defensemen Zach Bogosian and Marco Scandella. Bogosian remains day-to-day with a lower-body injury, while Scandella will miss the remainder of the season after he was hurt blocking a shot on Long Island on Saturday.
Ristolainen leads the Sabres in average ice time (24:42) and ranks fifth on the team with 39 points (5+34) in 75 games. Sabres coach Phil Housley emphasized the need for the defenseman to manage his ice time as he eases his way back into game action.
"When he was ill, he did lose a lot of body weight," Housley said. "He's found his way back. We haven't had a lot of practice time, so he's going to have to manage his ice time and where he is in his shift, but we expect him to be a hundred percent tonight."
Borgen has appeared in four games and averaged 16:33 of ice time since being recalled last Tuesday.
"I really liked his play," Housley said. "Really, when you look at his shifts, positionally sound. Very good defensively. He has very good gap and stick detail. But he moves the puck very well. It's a very simple game, very steady.
"Obviously, in some of the games that we've faced against good teams, the pace of the play and the decisions and the processing have to come a little quicker. But, all in all, I really like his play."
The Sabres are looking to end a seven-game winless streak. The Predators come to town looking to secure the second seed in the Central Division and earn home-ice advantage for their first-round series with the St. Louis Blues.
Ristolainen said the Sabres shouldn't need any extra motivation with a chance to play spoiler.
"Nothing to lose, obviously," he said. "Everyone's got to play for something. At least give the fans what they earned and bring some excitement for them and play for each other here."
Carter Hutton will start in net for the Sabres. Coverage on MSG-B begins at 6:30 p.m. with the GMC Game Night pregame show, or you can listen live on WGR 550. The puck drops at 7.
41 Victor Olofsson - 9 Jack Eichel - 23 Sam Reinhart
53 Jeff Skinner - 71 Evan Rodrigues - 21 Kyle Okposo
43 Conor Sheary - 37 Casey Mittelstadt - 92 Alexander Nylander
20 Scott Wilson - 22 Johan Larsson - 29 Jason Pominville
26 Rasmus Dahlin - 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
19 Jake McCabe - 62 Brandon Montour
24 Lawrence Pilut - 8 Casey Nelson
40 Carter Hutton
35 Linus Ullmark