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Sharpen Up: April 2, 2017

by Chris Ryndak @ChrisRyndak / Sabres.com

It'll be a big day for C.J. Smith. The college free agent, who signed with Buffalo on Wednesday, will make his NHL debut today at KeyBank Center. 

With Kyle Okposo still fighting an illness and unable to play, Smith will dress and - if we go by yesterday's practice - will skate on a line with center Evan Rodrigues and captain Brian Gionta. 

Here's what you need to know.

 

From yesterday's practice report

Video: BYLSMA: After Practice

"It's going to be a really good opportunity for him to show what he can do and what he is," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. "We've seen him the last two days in practice, the last two practices. He's got some speed and jump to his game, agility. I think we've really kind of noted his puck skills and his tenaciousness on the puck.

"He's not a big guy and he's not going to be fooling anyone out there with his size but I've liked the way in the practices he's competed on pucks and been tenacious on pucks and think that's going to be a big part of his game."

Smith is listed at 5-feet-11-inches tall and 185 pounds, but describes his style of play as "blue collar." He scored 125 points in 120 NCAA games at UMass Lowell, but his willingness to battle is as much a part of his game as his scoring touch. 

"I like to just play a tenacious game," Smith said. "Whatever happens, I'm just going to go out there and compete and play hard."

Rasmus Ristolainen is also set to return from his three-game suspension. Brian Duff has more on that and Smith's debut:

Video: Sabres in :90 (4/1/17)


It's Family Appreciation Day!

The Sabres will hold Family Appreciation Day at KeyBank Center today. As part of the festivities, there will be a family-focused party in Tops Alumni Plaza beginning at 1 p.m.

At the Party in the Plaza, you'll find:

  • Live music
  • Food samples
  • An appearance by Sabretooth
  • A prize wheel for a chance to win a free Sabres jersey
  • A Tops Monopoly Collect & Win ticket giveaway
  • Fun activities for kids including a bounce house, a balloon artist and air-brush tattoos
  • Fan Photo area provided by DPM

RJ and Rayzor will call the game from the 300 level and an auction through My One Buffalo will allow fans the chance to bid on an in-seat visit from Sabretooth. 

Fans registered for My One Buffalo will also be able to enter for a raffle at the Buff-A-Nerd table located on the 100-level concourse for a chance to win an autographed mini-stick.

The final run of the BlueCross BlueShield Live Fearless Frenzy will take place during the first intermission to decide the Sabres 7th Man Award winner.

The Sabres Store will also be giving all fans 40 percent off their entire purchase during each of the team's home games in April.

It's not too late to grab your tickets:

  • The Sabres will offer a special $15 discounted ticket for children with the purchase of a regularly priced 300 level ticket, presented by Tops Friendly Markets.
  • Family packs with four tickets, four sodas, four hot dogs and four popcorns are available for $199.
  • Hat packs featuring two 300 Level II tickets and a Sabres New Era cap can be purchased for $99.

Click here for details on Wednesday's Fan Appreciation Night as well as next weekend's Fan Appreciation Goes Digital giveaways.

Faceoff today is scheduled for 3 p.m. with the Tops Game Night pregame show kicking off at 2:30 p.m. on MSG. You can also listen to the game on WGR 550. 


What else do you need to know?

The Sabres are 49-for-56 (87.5%) on the penalty kill in their last 21 games.

Buffalo went 15-for-36 (41.7%) on the power play in 14 games in March, including a 7-for-10 mark in the last five games.

Fourteen of the last 19 games between the Sabres and Islanders have been decided by a single goal.

Robin Lehner has stopped 222 of 236 shots (.941) in his last seven appearances. He is also 3-1-2 with a .927 save percentage in six career games against the Islanders.

Jack Eichel has not gone two games without a point since Jan. 31 and Feb. 2. In the 27 games since, Eichel has totaled 34 points (11+23).

Ryan O'Reilly has totaled 14 points (6+8) in his last 15 games.

Sam Reinhart enters tonight's game with points in each of his last three games played (1+2).

(Via @SabresPR)

 

On tap today

We'll hear from Dan Bylsma later today with any other lineup news and notes. Then check out the pregame show for everything else you'll need heading into the game.

After the game, we'll have full postgame coverage for you right here at Sabres.com. 

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