COLUMBUS – Over the course of the regular season, lineup changes are inevitable. So when the Buffalo Sabres came into Friday's morning skate at Nationwide Arena the healthiest they've been in quite some time, of course something happened that almost put that projected healthy lineup in jeopardy.
Early on in the skate, Marcus Foligno simultaneously caught a skate and a stick in the mouth near the visitor's bench and headed off to the dressing room. He left behind a few teeth on the ice.
However, Sabres coach Dan Byslma said that after some repairs and some dental work, Foligno should be OK to play against the Blue Jackets on Friday. Pregame coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Tops Sabres Gamenight on MSG-B and Bell TV. The game can also be heard live on WGR 550 with puck drop scheduled for 7 p.m.
The Sabres, however, are still dealing with two significant injuries.
Tyler Ennis remains out with an upper-body injury. He's missed 21 games since taking a hard hit from Alexander Ovechkin on Dec. 30 in Washington. Bylsma hopes Ennis can return to action this season, but had no update on his condition. Cody McCormick has also missed the entire season thus far due to blood clots.
But other than that, it's the first time in six games that they won't need to insert a call-up from Rochester into the lineup. The Sabres reassigned Justin Bailey to Rochester on Thursday and activated Daniel Catenacci from injured reserve Friday morning before sending him down as well, giving Buffalo 12 healthy forwards on the active roster.
Even with the lineup ever changing, the Sabres have picked up points in seven of their past nine games and they're 4-2-3 over that stretch. Alternate captain Ryan O'Reilly chalked that up to the team playing a more consistent game.
"The games that we have won, we've found a way to get it done but we've been playing with a sense of urgency. Last game [a 2-1 shootout loss at Ottawa], we had a consistent 60 minutes," he said. "We played well. There were some times when we were caught on our heels, but we stuck together and we stayed glued the entire time."
Now, they'll have some consistency back in their line combinations.
O'Reilly will center Evander Kane – coming off his one-game team-imposed suspension – and Sam Reinhart. O'Reilly has been fighting an illness and missed Thursday's practice, but said he feels better now.
With that line together again, Bylsma hopes Kane's speed with free up some space for O'Reilly and Reinhart.
Zemgus Girgensons, after taking a maintenance day at practice on Thursday, will be back on the wing with Jamie McGinn and center Jack Eichel.
"Getting Girgensons back with Eichel, I think that line's been the best with Girgensons there," Bylsma said.
Bylsma will continue to rely on the line of Foligno, captain Brian Gionta and center Johan Larsson in defensive situations. Larsson missed four games due to injury but made his return on Tuesday, playing 17:18.
STARTING IN GOAL…
Friday's contest looks like it could shape up into a great goaltending duel.
Robin Lehner will make his third-straight start between the pipes for the Sabres. He's allowed one goal in each of his previous two games and has stopped 59 of 61 shots for a .967 save percentage. In his career against Columbus, Lehner is 3-1-0 with a .944 save percentage and a 2.00 goals-against average.
He'll be going up against Joonas Korpisalo, who has been phenomenal for Columbus. In his last 12 starts, Korpisalo is 8-1-3 with a 1.94 GAA and a .942 save percentage. He's allowed two goals or less in 10 of those starts.
9 Evander Kane – 90 Ryan O'Reilly – 23 Sam Reinhart
88 Jamie McGinn – 15 Jack Eichel – 28 Zemgus Girgensons
82 Marcus Foligno – 22 Johan Larsson – 12 Brian Gionta
44 Nicolas Deslauriers – 17 David Legwand – 26 Matt Moulson
4 Josh Gorges – 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
29 Jake McCabe – 47 Zach Bogosian
3 Mark Pysyk – 46 Cody Franson
40 Robin Lehner
31 Chad Johnson