ST. PAUL, Minn. -- It's a beautiful Minnesota morning, one that figures to be 50-60 degrees warmer than when we return for real in January. And that's the backdrop for the Sabres' first preseason game -- and the exhibition debut of Jack Eichel.
The league's No. 2 overall pick and the talk of the town, non-Bills division, is in the lineup tonight as the Sabres meet the Minnesota Wild in their preseason opener. Faceoff is 8 p.m. Eastern.
The Sabres pregame skate opens at 12:30 ET and we'll have updates here and on Twitter (@BNHarrington). Eichel is expected to center Matt Moulson and Zemgus Girgensons in the first game-day screening of what could be the Sabres' No. 2 line come the regular season.
Buffalo has a pretty representative lineup slated to go in this one. Chad Johnson, slated to be Robin Lehner's backup, will start in goal with Nathan Lieuwen getting some action as well.
The forwards listed on the trip are: Eichel, Moulson, Girgenson, Johan Larsson, Matt Ellis, Justin Kea, Nic Deslauriers, William Carrier, Justin Bailey, Jean Dupuy, Vaclav Karabacek, Marcus Foligno and Phil Varone.
Defensemen listed are: Mark Pysyk, Chad Ruhwedel, Mike Weber, Jake McCabe, Brendan Guhle, Cody Franson, Matt Donovan and Brady Austin.
Among those joining Eichel in making their NHL preseason debuts tonight for the Sabres are Williamsville native Bailey and Guhle, Buffalo's No. 2 pick this year.
Today's links: Pysyk, pretty much a lock to stick in Buffalo this year after spending most of last year in Rochester, was profiled today by John Vogl. Lieuwen, on the road back from yet another concussion, was the lead subject of today's Sabres notebook.
A key reminder: The game is not being televised or streamed. It's available only on WGR Radio (and, of course, through my live tweets this evening). For those venting about that point, it should be noted that the Wild -- who play in the self-proclaimed "State of Hockey" -- do not have any of their preseason games televised other.
Noon update: The Sabres have just announced they will telecast the Oct. 2 preseason finale vs. Columbus from First Niagara Center live on MSG. The Sept. 25 game at Toronto and the Sept. 29 home game with the Leafs will be shown on tape delay on NHL Network (Sept. 25 game on Sept. 26 at 8 a.m. and 1 p.m, and Sept. 29 game on Sept. 30 at 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.).
Test case: Tonight's game will be one of the Sabres' three tester exhibitions for 3-on-3 overtime. Even if we're not tied at the end of 60 minutes, we will go to the new overtime format but no shootout. If we are tied, normal OT/shootout rules will apply.
The other side: As for the Wild, Darcy Kuemper is expected to go the route in goal. The top line of Zach Parise, Mikael Granlund and former Sabres captain Jason Pominville will play. So will top defensemen Ryan Suter and Jared Spurgeon. Former Sabres sniper Thomas Vanek and starting goaltender Devin Dubnyk are among those sitting out.
Tyson Strachan, a member of last year's Buffalo tank brigade, will be on the Minnesota defense; he's ticketed to play at AHL Iowa this season.
The Wild will also be dressing former UMinnesota defenseman Mike Reilly, who spurned several offers over the summer and chose to come home after never signing with Columbus. He was drafted by the Blue Jackets in 2011.