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Sharpen Up: February 11, 2017

by Chris Ryndak @ChrisRyndak / Sabres.com

UPDATE (11:30 a.m.) - Evan Rodrigues has been recalled from Rochester and is on the ice with the team for its morning skate in Toronto. 

Rodrigues ranks third on the Amerks this season with 18 assists and fifth with 27 points this season. 

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We hope you're ready for the start of another back-to-back slate of games because the Sabres sure are. Buffalo is in Toronto tonight to take on the Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre. It's a divisional matchup, so you know what that means when it comes to the standings: two points can go a long way in helping Buffalo climb back into the thick of the playoff race. 

Toronto currently holds claim to the third seed in the Atlantic with 61 points. Buffalo is seven points back with one more game played. 

We're on the air with the TOPS Game Night pregame show starting at 6:30 p.m. on MSG. Dan and Rayzor have the call just after 7. We'll have full Morning Skate coverage with lineup news and notes for you throughout the day to keep you up to date.

Then guess what? The Sabres are back home tomorrow night against Vancouver for a 7:30 faceoff from KeyBank Center. The busy month keeps rolling (this is Game 3 of 9 in a 14-day stretch).

Here's what you need to know.

Video: Sabres in :90 (2/10/17)

Buffalo stayed off the ice yesterday following their disappointing 5-2 loss to Anaheim on Thursday and opted to hold a meeting and a team activity instead of a full-on practice. They're battling the injury bug yet again as both Cody Franson and Zemgus Girgensons will miss tonight's game. Check out more in yesterday's Ice Level Practice Report from Jourdon LaBarber.

Video: BYLSMA: After Practice

Girgensons is out with what coach Dan Bylsma has described as anything from a mid-body to a full-body injury, likely just the result of wear and tear over the course of the season - and more than likely from some of the bigger hits he's taken recently. Girgensons missed the Ducks game as well and is expected to sit out against the Canucks, too.

Franson, meanwhile, played 17:58 and finished the game on Thursday, but injured his foot on a blocked shot. The official stat sheet has him blocking just one shot in the game (with 3:21 remaining in the first period). 

Taylor Fedun figures back into the lineup after sitting out as a healthy scratch against Anaheim.

Video: O'REILLY: After Practice


Tonight's matchup

This is the third of five meetings between the Sabres and Maple Leafs this season. The Sabres are 5-4-1 in their last 10 games against the Maple Leafs and 2-5-3 in their last 10 on the road.

The home team has won 23 of the last 27 games between the Sabres and the Maple Leafs. With a Sabres win tonight, each team will have won in the other's arena in the same season for the first time since 2012-13.

Robin Lehner is 5-3-1 with a .927 save percentage so far in 2017.

Kyle Okposo has points in eight of his last 12 games, including each of his last four (2+2).

Ryan O'Reilly has 16 points (4+12) in 17 games since returning from injury.

Jack Eichel has logged 11 points (5+6) in his last 12 games, including five two-point outings.

Evander Kane has nine points (4+5) in his last nine games. Kane also has five points (3+2) in five games against Toronto since the beginning of the 2013-14 season and he's not the only one who's had success historically against the Leafs.

Tyler Ennis has 17 points (8+9) in 18 games against the Maple Leafs since the beginning of the 2011-12 season.

Matt Moulson has 25 points (16+9) in 30 career games against the Maple Leafs.

Brian Gionta has four points (1+3) in his last four games against the Maple Leafs

(Thanks again to @SabresPR!)

 

Tonight's other matchup: Showdown Round 2

It's O'Reilly against Girgensons in the first semifinal tonight. Watch live on tonight's broadcast and then watch it again here at Sabres.com.

All of the matchups are available at Sabres.com/Showdown.

Then find out during tomorrow's broadcast who will advance from the other side of the bracket. Sam Reinhart is up against Jake McCabe in that head-to-head duel.


If you somehow missed this…

Here's our feature on 8-year-old C.J. Gworek, a Sabres fan in Nashville, and his Eichel Tower of pucks, which gets bigger with every Jack Eichel goal. When we played the Predators in Music City last month, we invited C.J. and his family to the Morning Skate, where he was able to meet Jack and received an autographed puck that now sits atop the tower.

Video: The Eichel Tower

It was a pleasure having the Gworeks at the Morning Skate in Nashville and it's great to see that C.J. had the time of his life. 

In addition to the video, C.J.'s dad John was kind enough to write a piece for us about the whole experience. 


On tap today

Full pregame coverage from Toronto where Jourdon and Duffer are anxiously waiting for some hockey to played. Then stick with us for full postgame reaction as we recap the Leafs game and set you up for the match against our Class of 1970 brethren.

If you want to come to tomorrow night's game, we've got some options for you. Individual tickets, Family Packs and Hat Trick Packs are all on sale now.

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