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Sharpen Up: January 7, 2017

by Chris Ryndak @ChrisRyndak / Sabres.com

Following a disappointing overtime loss in Chicago on Thursday, the Sabres are ready to move on today when they face the Winnipeg Jets on home ice. 

The last time these two teams played back on Oct. 30, Kyle Okposo scored twice in a 3-1 Sabres victory. Winnipeg is wrapping up a three-game road trip in which they've already beaten Tampa Bay (6-4) and Florida (4-1). 

Here's what you need to know.

Let's kick things off with a little Game Preview action. Here's Brian Duff:

Video: Preview: Sabres vs. Jets

Success on the power play

In Ryan O'Reilly's return to the lineup against the Blackhawks after a four-game absence due to an appendectomy, he recorded a pair of primary assists, both of which came on the power play. Jourdon LaBarber took a closer look at what O'Reilly brings to the table on the man advantage and how his presence affects how that first power-play unit is able to move the puck. 

 Video: BYLSMA: After Practice (1/6/17)

"You feel like he's the quarterback, the distributor of the puck even though he's not on the top. He adds that for us," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. "Distribution of the puck, it's much different when he's not there."

 

Game Notes highlights

  • Buffalo has won its last three games against Winnipeg and will look to stretch that streak to four for the first time since the Sabres defeated the Thrashers in four straight from Feb. 16, 2004 to Jan. 31, 2006.
  • The Sabres are also 6-3-2 against the Western Conference this season, including points in each of their last four games (3-0-1) and wins in each of their last three home games against the West.
  • Rasmus Ristolainen has 17 points (3+14) his last 17 games and has compiled 10 points (2+8) in his last 10 home games.
  • Matt Moulson has recorded six points (1+5) in his last six home games.
  • Sam Reinhart has recorded eight points (2+6) in his last eight games.
  • Jack Eichel enters tonight's game on a five-game point streak, having tallied six points (3+3) in those games. The streak is tied for the longest of his career (excluding the seven-game streak that spanned the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons).
  • Kyle Okposo is currently on a four-game point streak (3+2). He has 12 points (5+7) in his last 11 games against the Jets. In 23 career games against Winnipeg/Atlanta, Okposo has eight multi-point games, including each of his last three.
  • Robin Lehner has stopped 62 of 64 shots (.969) to go 2-0-0 in his two career appearances against Winnipeg. Anders Nilsson stopped 36 of 38 shots to earn a win in his only previous meeting with the Jets, on March 4, 2014.
  • Meanwhile, Nilsson is 4-0-1 in his last five home games dating back to Oct. 29 vs. Florida, posting a .951 save percentage in those contests.

(Thanks @SabresPR!)


American splendor 

Duffer caught up with a few American-born Sabres yesterday to get their reaction of Team USA's gold-medal victory at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship. 

Video: American Sabres on USA's win

The final game of the tournament ended just as the team was leaving the rink in Chicago, so some of the players were able to catch the final few minutes of action. 

Buffalo is hosting the tournament in December. For more information including ticket packages that guarantee you a seat for the outdoor game between the U.S. and Canada at New Era Field, visit BuffaloWorldJuniors.com.

 

Postgame festivities with Bogo and the gang

If you're looking for something fun to do on a Saturday night, it's not too late to do that and support The Bogo Bunch Foundation, Zach Bogosian's charity. 

Tonight at Town Ballroom, they'll be hosting Casino For A Cause, a 1920s casino night to benefit the Buffalo Wellness Centers Juicer Fund and Roswell Park Cancer Institute. Town Ballroom has been transformed back to the bygone era when the Queen City's finest club was filled with showgirls and tough guys like Al Capone. 

Casino For A Cause will include live music by a Frank Sinatra tribute band, an amazing live auction, open bar and mouthwatering appetizers provided by local restaurants. Bogosian and his teammates will deal the cards and work the gaming tables at Buffalo's ultimate nightclub party with a purpose. This is a 21 and over event, a rule that will be strictly enforced at the door.

Festivities start at 7 p.m. and you can find tickets and more information at TheBogoBunchFoundation.org.


On tap today

We'll hear from Dan Bylsma a little later on this morning for any lineup news, including who will be starting in goal. Nilsson manned the crease for both games on the road trip.

Forward William Carrier missed last game due to an illness and did not skate on Friday.

 Video: Diamond in the Rough: William Carrier

The Sabres have also been without defenseman Dmitry Kulikov (lower back) and wing Tyler Ennis (groin). Ennis once again practiced with the team yesterday, but there is no timetable set for his return. 

If you're not coming to KeyBank Center for the 1 p.m. faceoff, join us at 12:30 p.m. for the TOPS Game Night pregame show on MSG. Duffer and MayDay will lead you to puck drop, where RJ and Rayzor will have the call.

Then stick with us after the game for full postgame coverage including recaps, highlights and locker room reaction. 

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