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VARONE, DALPE TO FILL IN FOR GIRGENSONS, ENNIS AGAINST CANUCKS

by Chris Ryndak / Buffalo Sabres

The Buffalo Sabres will be without their top two scorers Thursday night with the Vancouver Canucks – sans Ryan Miller – in town.

Tyler Ennis and Zemgus Girgensons will miss the team’s game against the Vancouver Canucks at First Niagara Center with lower-body injuries. Both sustained their injuries on Tuesday in Columbus.

Girgensons blocked a shot off his right heel midway through the second period and had to be helped off the ice while not putting any pressure on that foot. Ennis left after the second period and did not return.

Sabres coach Ted Nolan said that Girgensons will miss a few weeks but is expected back before the edn of the regular season.

Ennis could be back as soon as Saturday afternoon’s road game in Florida.

“Once in a while you stretch certain things and certain things don’t want to stretch that far and sometimes they pull,” Nolan said of Ennis’ injury.


NEW ARRIVALS
Girgensons’ and Ennis’ injury replacements arrived early Thursday for the morning skate. Philip Varone and Zac Dalpe, fresh off back-to-back games for the Rochester Americans, will play on a line with Johan Larsson. The three have skated together at times with the Amerks to some pretty strong success.

Dalpe currently leads Rochester in goals with 16 and has collected 28 points in 44 games played this season.

He joined the Sabres in the offseason after spending last year with the Canucks organization.

“I’m kind of getting back to my old self,” Dalpe said. “You get thrown in a role and it kind of gets away from you a bit, but now I’m shooting the puck and playing well. And it doesn’t hurt playing with Phil, a good passer. Things have been going in for me and hopefully they continue.”

Varone has played in seven games for the Sabres this year, including a two-goal performance against Carolina on Jan. 8. He currently leads the Amerks in total points (43) and assists (29) through 52 games played and his point total ranks 14th in the AHL.

Nolan had a good chat with the three of them as the skate wrapped up. The message was to just play their game and play with speed.

“They played pretty well down there together but this is a whole different league,” Nolan said. “This isn’t the American Hockey League and we don’t expect to see the same results from them but we hope they’ll be excited to play.”


GOALIE BATTLE
Michal Neuvirth will start his seventh-straight game for Buffalo.

The defensive effort has been better of late and Mike Weber, who returns to the lineup after missing the past two games with an upper-body injury, has seen a big improvement in their own end. He said it starts with the physical play of defenseman Zach Bogosian and Neuvirth’s ability to keep the team in games.

“Since the addition of Bogo, guys are stepping up all around. We’ve been playing a more physical game,” Weber said. “Obviously last game, we still gave up a lot of shots, but Neuvy’s been unbelievable since having the No. 1 job, stepping up into it. He’s been huge. He’s been great all season when he has played.”

Neuvirth stopped 45 of 47 shots on Tuesday’s 4-2 win over Columbus and has now made 220 saves in the six games since he took over as the team’s starting goaltender. He has a .952 save percentage and a 1.76 goals-against average over that span.

He’ll face off against Eddie Lack, who now has the starting job in Vancouver because Miller is out 4-6 weeks with a lower-body injury. In Vancouver’s last game on Tuesday in Boston, Lack made 40 saves in a 2-1 victory.


PROJECTED LINEUP
82 Marcus Foligno – 65 Brian Flynn – 80 Chris Stewart
26 Matt Moulson – 17 Torrey Mitchell – 12 Brian Gionta
22 Johan Larsson – 84 Philip Varone – 20 Zac Dalpe
19 Cody Hodgson – 37 Matt Ellis – 44 Nicolas Deslauriers

61 Andre Benoit – 47 Zach Bogosian
6 Mike Weber – 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
41 Andrej Meszaros – 3 Mark Pysyk

34 Michal Neuvirth
35 Anders Lindback

Scratched: 24 Tyson Strachan (infection), 51 Nikita Zadorov, 63 Tyler Ennis (lower-body injury)
Injured Reserve: 4 Josh Gorges (lower body), 8 Cody McCormick (blood clots), 9 Evander Kane (shoulder), 28 Zemgus Girgensons (lower body), 36 Patrick Kaleta (lower body)

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