will be sidelined by the same upper body injury that has caused him to miss nine of the last 13 games, plus the second and third periods of last night’s game against Toronto, according to Head Coach Lindy Ruff.
“I think these are the games that are fun to play. You’ve got to have fun playing them. You’ve got to go after it. We’re not going to change our style; our style has got us to where we’re at right now." - Lindy Ruff on tonight's game vs. the Rangers
Ruff also confirmed that Mike Grier
will be out of the lineup and, as a result, Matt Ellis has been recalled from Portland of the American Hockey League. Grier aggravated his knee Saturday night against New Jersey and missed last night’s game. Ellis has played eight games for the Sabres this season.
One other significant change will be the addition of Marc-Andre Gragnani
, who will quarterback the Buffalo power play tonight.
“Marc is going to go in and play. I really feel that we need somebody on the back end that can quarterback our power play in Leopold’s absence,” Ruff said.
With Jordan Leopold
missing the last two games – and expected to miss the rest of the regular season – the Sabres have not scored a power play goal in his absence.
“It could have made a difference late in the game (against Toronto) for us,” Ruff said of the power play. “We’re just going to play who we think can help us win. I don’t want to wait two or three games. I think it’s important right now if we have one or two power plays… (Gragnani) has had a great year down there (in Portland) quarterbacking their power play, and I just feel that he could give that unit a boost. He’s a great passer. He might be as good a passer that we’ll have from the back end.”
Gragnani was held scoreless in the three games he played for Buffalo in January, but leads all AHL defensemen in scoring with 60 points (12-48-60) in 63 games this season. Of his 60 points, 25 (4-21-25) have come with the man advantage.
“I’m happy to be here and I’ve got to make the power play work and help the guys to score goals… I think it’s a matter of making the right decision out there, sometimes it’s taking a shot, sometimes it’s faking a shot and passing to the other guys,” Gragnani said of his approach to quarterbacking the power play.
In addition to being one of Portland’s top two scorers, along with Mancari, Gragnani also leads the team in plus/minus with a +22 rating, which speaks to his effectiveness in 5-on-5 play.
As for the Sabres' opponent tonight, the Rangers come into the contest leading Buffalo by two points in the Eastern Conference standings and have gone 6-0-1 in their last seven games.
“I think it will be tight. I don’t see them giving up a lot, so in our case, we have to take better care of the puck than we did last night,” Ruff said. “I think these are the games that are fun to play. You’ve got to have fun playing them. You’ve got to go after it. We’re not going to change our style; our style has got us to where we’re at right now. I've told the team, ‘get on your toes, be ready to play, we’ll play our game.’”
Rangers Head Coach John Tortorella’s club is playing the first of back-to-back games tonight. They will play the Islanders in Long Island tomorrow, but Tortorella is focused only on tonight’s game.
“I’m not even thinking of the back-to-back, I’m thinking of the Buffalo team. Whatever games come our way, that’s the game we’re thinking about. I think Buffalo is going to be better tonight than they were yesterday, so it’ll be a tough game for us, so this is the one we’re thinking about,” Tortorella said.