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Sharpen Up: November 17, 2017

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber /

A stretch of six games in nine days for the Sabres begins tonight in Detroit, where they'll face the Red Wings for the second time this season and the first at Little Caesars Arena. The Sabres previously beat the Red Wings 1-0 in Buffalo on Oct. 24. 

Coverage tonight begins at 7 p.m. with GMC Gamenight on MSG-B, or you can listen live on WGR 550. Puck drop is set for 7:30. 

Here's what you need to know on this Friday morning. 



Sabres recall Criscuolo

While it's not yet set in stone, we may see the NHL debut for Kyle Criscuolo tonight in Detroit. Criscuolo was recalled for the first time Thursday and practiced on a line with Jordan Nolan and Zemgus Girgensons, but Sabres coach Phil Housley said his status for tonight will be a game-time decision.

With Criscuolo on the roster, the Sabres reassigned Nicholas Baptiste to Rochester later on Thursday afternoon.

There was a point in time when an NHL debut for Criscuolo looked like no certainty at all. Perhaps for his 5-foot-8-inch stature, he went undrafted heading into his collegiate career at Harvard University, where he'd go on to serve as team captain as a junior and senior (making him the first player to do so, according to Harvard's student paper, since George Owen in 1923). 

His collegiate success earned him a minor league contract with Detroit's AHL team in Grand Rapids, where he scored 41 points en route to a Calder Cup championship last season. 

This season, he's tied with C.J. Smith for the Amerks lead with 11 points (5+6) in 14 games.

You can read more about Criscuolo's journey in Thursday's practice report, or hear from him below in Thursday's Sabres Now: 

Video: Sabres Now (11/16/17)


Another injury on defense

Justin Falk and Taylor Fedun were both absent from practice on Thursday, adding to a list of defensemen that already included Zach Bogosian, Rasmus Ristolainen and Matt Tennyson. Housley said that Falk's absence was simply a maintenance day, but Fedun is expected to miss 6-to-8 weeks with a lower-body injury.

With Zach Redmond nursing an injury in Rochester as well, the Sabres recalled Casey Nelson on Thursday to add an extra body on defense. He filled in for Falk alongside Marco Scandella, with the defensive pairs shaping up as follows:

6 Marco Scandella - 8 Casey Nelson
19 Jake McCabe - 82 Nathan Beaulieu 
4 Josh Gorges - 93 Victor Antipin

Nelson, who's played in 18 games with Buffalo over the past two seasons, has four points (1+3) in 14 games for Rochester. 


Tonight's game

Here's a look back to the last time the Sabres played the Red Wings, a game in which Phil Housley praised his team's ability to keep things simple and stick to their game plan en route to a 1-0 win. Benoit Pouliot scored the lone goal in the game while Robin Lehner made 32 saves for his first shutout.

Video: Condensed Game: Red Wings @ Sabres

Since then, the Sabres have looked to establish that type of effort on a consistent basis while the Red Wings have begun to see their season trend upward. Detroit enters the night 3-1-1 in its last five games, coming off of an 8-2 blowout at home against Calgary on Wednesday.

Special teams have been a strength for the Red Wings, and they scored four of their eight goals against Calgary on the power play. The Sabres, too, have seen their power play turn a corner with four goals in eight chances over their last three games. 

Wondering who to watch on the Red Wings? They're led this season by a pair of young forwards in Anthony Mantha, who boasts a team-high 19 points (10+9), and Dylan Larkin with 18 (3+15). Martin Frk, Frans Nielsen and Gustav Nyquist have six goals apiece. 


From the notes

Here are some of the highlights from our friends at Sabres PR:

  • Evander Kane has a point in each of his last four games (3+2). A point tonight would give him his first five-game point streak since his career-best eight game streak from Feb. 12 to 26, 2013.

  • Since joining the Sabres, Robin Lehner is 3-1-1 against the Red Wings with a .961 save percentage and a 1.38 goals-against average.

  • The Sabres enter tonight's game with four consecutive wins against Detroit for the first time since Buffalo won five in a row from Feb. 6, 1981 to Jan. 6, 1982.


Hockey Fights Cancer Night is Saturday

The Sabres, in conjunction with the Courage of Carly Fund at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, will hold Hockey Fights Cancer Night during the team's home game against Carolina on Saturday. All fans attending the game will receive a co-branded Sabres and Courage of Carly Fund scarf.

We have plenty more information about what's always a special night at KeyBank Center, which you can find at


Turkeys for Tickets

Tweet from @BuffaloSabres: Thank you to all who donated for our #TurkeysForTickets �� Drive!We collected more than 2,500 turkeys for @FoodBankofWNY & @CityMission! #OneBuffalo


On Tap

Chris Ryndak and Dan Dunleavy are on site in Detroit, and they'll have updates after the team takes the ice for their morning skate around 11:30 a.m. Then, check back here after the game for highlights, locker room reaction and more. 

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