UPDATE (3:30 p.m.) - Goaltender Chad Johnson is now listed as doubtful with a lower-body injury. Andrey Makarov has been recalled from the AHL's Rochester Americans.
KANATA, ONT -- Andrew Hammond of the Ottawa Senators has been red-hot for the Ottawa Senators in net lately, helping the team push themselves back into the playoff picture. The Buffalo Sabres hope they’ll be able to rely on their new goaltender Chad Johnson to counter Ottawa’s attack Friday night.
Johnson is slated to make his first start for Buffalo when the take on the Senators at Canadian Tire Centre at 7:30 p.m. The Tops Game Night pregame show will begin at 7 p.m. on MSG-B and Bell. The game can also be heard live on WGR 550.
Hammond, meanwhile, is 6-0-1 in seven consecutive starts while allowing two or fewer goals in each game. In eight games played, Hammond has a 1.35 goals-against average and .957 save percentage. Ottawa is 7-1-2 in the past 10 games and is only five points behind Boston for the final Wild Card spot with a game in hand.
“Everything starts from the goaltending out. Their goaltender’s been playing sensational lately,” Sabres coach Ted Nolan said. “Every team we play from here on in’s got something to play for. These guys are fighting for a playoff spot. The last team we played, they’re fighting for first overall.”
Buffalo had a strong first period in their loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday. Coming out of the gate strong and finding the consistency to play that kind of tenacious game every shift will be key if Buffalo wants to get pucks past Hammond.
“For us, it’s no different. When we came out in Tampa, we were good from the start and we got pucks and bodies to the net,” forward Marcus Foligno said. “That’s what we’re going to have to do against that goaltender tonight.”
Sabres captain Brian Gionta is focused on making sure his team stays sharp and doesn’t fall into bad habits with only 18 games remaining in the season.
“Day to day, you’ve got to make sure you’re keeping the right mindset and keeping priorities straight,” he said.
Gionta will skate on the right wing with Foligno and newly recalled center Mikhail Grigorenko. Buffalo’s four centermen have each spent a bulk of the year with the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League and have the opportunity to show what they can do in important roles on the NHL stage.
“These young guys have a great shot to show themselves,” Gionta said. “And for the veteran guys, it’s setting a precedent for next year – trying to find our game and carry that over to next year.”
26 Matt Moulson – 84 Philip Varone – 63 Tyler Ennis
82 Marcus Foligno – 25 Mikhail Grigorenko – 12 Brian Gionta
44 Nicolas Deslauriers – 22 Johan Larsson – 19 Cody Hodgson
49 Jerry D’Amigo – 59 Tim Schaller – 37 Matt Ellis
61 Andre Benoit – 47 Zach Bogosian
51 Nikita Zadorov – 41 Andrej Meszaros
6 Mike Weber – 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
33 Chad Johnson
35 Anders Lindback
Scratched: 20 Zac Dalpe (family matters, did not travel), 24 Tyson Strachan
Injured Reserve: 4 Josh Gorges (lower body), 8 Cody McCormick (blood clots), 9 Evander Kane (shoulder), 28 Zemgus Girgensons (lower body), 36 Patrick Kaleta (lower body)