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Sharpen Up: January 5, 2017

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber /

It's a game day in Chicago, and the Buffalo Sabres might have one less appendix on the ice when they meet the Blackhawks tonight at United Center.

Ryan O'Reilly, just 11 days removed from an appendectomy, was given the green light by doctors to meet the team in Chicago and return to practice on Wednesday. While it's no certainty that he'll return to the lineup against the Blackhawks, the door was left open when he spoke afterward.

 "I want to play tomorrow. I feel like I can for sure," O'Reilly said. "I might be a little rusty, but I feel like I'm ready to get back. I still think I can be effective and it's just a matter of talking with all the management and staff to make sure everyone's safe with it and I'll be safe with it."

Chris Ryndak has the full story on O'Reilly in Wednesday's practice report, plus an added bit about the defensive effort in Buffalo's win over New York on Tuesday. You can hear from O'Reilly himself below in Wednesday's Sabres in :90 with Brian Duff.

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

Two important things to remember for tonight's game: It will be nationally televised on NBCSN (Dan Dunleavy and Rob Ray will have the radio call on WGR 550), and puck drop is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. EST.

Here's what else you need to know.


On Chicago

The Blackhawks have lost five of their last six games, falling most recently to St. Louis in the Winter Classic on Monday afternoon, and they scored just one goal in three of those losses. Having said that, they still sit atop the Western Conference with 51 points and tonight's game should mark the return of Marian Hossa, who's been out due to injury since Dec. 20.

"It's like a power play with great player son it that isn't scoring, they're still a dangerous power play," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. "I think you'd like to be able to take advantage of them maybe being slumping but you certainly don't approach it that way when you're going to play them. Whatever the numbers are or aren't, they're still a powerful team, a scoring team. They've got dangers players and that's something we're going to have to be very aware of when we play them."

Video: BYLSMA: After Practice

If the Sabres are able to pick up a victory in Chicago, it will mark their first win against the Blackhawks since Dec. 11, 2009. There have been some close calls along the way, including a 3-2 shootout loss last season, but the nine-game winless streak is tied for the largest against Chicago in franchise history. 


Fitzgerald to play for gold at World Juniors

After their thrilling 4-3 overtime win over Russia on Wednesday, Sabres prospect Casey Fitzgerald and Team USA will play for the gold medal against rival Canada at 8 p.m. USA won the first matchup between the two teams 3-1 on New Year's Eve.

Alexander Nylander, Rasmus Asplund and Sweden, meanwhile, will face Russia for the bronze medal at 3 p.m. after falling 5-2 in their semifinal game against Canada on Wednesday night. Nylander scored an assist in that game for his tournament-leading 12th point (5+7).

Kris Baker has the full recap of yesterday's action, which you can read here.


Casino for a Cause

Zach Bogosian's "Casino for a Cause" charity event is this Saturday night, and to prepare Bogosian and a few of his teammates took part in a 1920's-themed photo shoot to promote the event. If you have any interest in learning about the event, or seeing Jack Eichel in a pink fedora, check out the video below.

Video: Bogo Bunch 1920's Photo Shoot

If you're interested in going to the event, more details can be found here.


Bailey travel blog

For most people, it's hard to image what it would be like to score your first NHL goal for your hometown team at Madison Square Garden. Luckily we have Justin Bailey, and he shared what that experience was like in our latest Travel Blog


On Tap

We'll have updates from Chicago, which will likely include a decision on Ryan O'Reilly, following the team's morning skate. Kris Baker will also once again recap the day's World Junior action, so keep an eye out for that as well.

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