OTTAWA - Now two days removed from a disappointing loss at home to Vancouver on Sunday, the Buffalo Sabres will have their first test to see whether they've heeded their own words regarding their inconsistent play as of late.
Dan Bylsma said he had no problem with Robin Lehner and other players voicing their frustrations publicly over the past two days, which were primarily aimed at the team's tendency to deviate from its game plan on the ice, but the coach added that he's more interested in seeing how the Sabres respond against the Ottawa Senators.
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"I think it's time we've all got to take ownership in our game, take responsibility for how we've been playing and Robin wasn't the only guy who voiced those words," Bylsma said. "I'm good with that. It's time the players take control of that and voice those words out but the response is from this game tonight."
Although Evander Kane did not skate on Tuesday morning and will be a game-time decision due to illness, the Sabres will receive a boost to their lineup with the return of defenseman Zach Bogosian from a six-game absence due to a rib injury. Bogosian is expected to play on a pair with Justin Falk, while Taylor Fedun will sit as a healthy scratch.
"I feel good," Bogosian said after participating in the team's morning skate at Canadian Tire Centre. "It took a couple days to settle down. I feel a lot better than I even did a few days ago so it's calmed down quite a bit and I'm ready to go tonight."
The Sabres also have the luxury of attempting to rebound against an Ottawa team that they've had success against this season. Buffalo is 3-0-1 in four prior meetings, including a 4-0 win in their most recent matchup in Buffalo on Feb. 4. If the Sabres are looking for a blueprint for how they should play, Bylsma said they need look no further than that game.
"Yes, for sure. This is an Ottawa team we've been able to have some success against for sure," he said. "The last game against them, the game in Buffalo was certainly one of our better 60-minute games. That's where we've gone a little off the rails when we haven't played well and a challenge for us tonight."
The Senators are coming off of wins in their last two games and sit eight points ahead of the Sabres for second place in the Atlantic Division. Mark Stone, who's scored in both of their last two wins, leads the team with 20 goals while defenseman Erik Karlsson leads the team with 45 points (8+37).
"I think if we get on their skilled guys - they've got a lot of defensemen that jump in on the rush with Karlsson, [Cody] Ceci and [Chris] Wideman and guys like that - you keep guys like that on top of you and you're aware of their top players up front, we've just got to stick to our game plan and go from there," Bogosian said.
Lehner will get the start in net against his former team after he produced a 37-save shutout when the Sabres and Senators last met. In seven career appearances against the Senators, Lehner is 3-0-2 with a .961 save percentage and a 1.18 goals-against average.
He'll be opposed by Craig Anderson, who marked his return from a leave of absence that spanned more than two months with a 33-save shutout of the New York Islanders on Saturday. Anderson was away from the team to be with his wife, Nicholle, during her ongoing treatment for throat cancer.
Coverage on Tuesday begins at 7 p.m. with the Tops Pregame Show on MSG-B, or you can listen live on WGR 550. The puck drops between the Sabres and Senators at 7:30.
If Kane is unable to play, look for Nicolas Deslauriers to join the lineup on the fourth line and Matt Moulson to replace Kane on a line with Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart. Here's how the full lineup appeared in Kane's absence on Tuesday morning:
56 Justin Bailey - 90 Ryan O'Reilly - 21 Kyle Okposo
26 Matt Moulson - 15 Jack Eichel - 23 Sam Reinhart
82 Marcus Foligno - 71 Evan Rodrigues - 12 Brian Gionta
44 Nicolas Deslauriers - 27 Derek Grant - 63 Tyler Ennis
29 Jake McCabe - 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
4 Josh Gorges - 77 Dmitry Kulikov
41 Justin Falk - 47 Zach Bogosian
40 Robin Lehner
31 Anders Nilsson