PITTSBURGH – The Sabres are going heavy at the top of their lineup, putting their highest-scoring forwards together for Tuesday night’s game in Pittsburgh.
Ryan O’Reilly (53 points), Jack Eichel (50) and Sam Reinhart (40) will form the Sabres’ No. 1 unit in Consol Energy Center. O’Reilly will move to the left wing, while Eichel will stay at center.
“Ryan will take some faceoffs on the left side and in the offensive zone, defensive zone, but Jack will be playing center,” said Sabres coach Dan Bylsma, who feels playing wing could help O’Reilly end a 24-game goal drought. “I think he’ll have the benefit of Jack being the transporter of the puck, being a guy who can lug the puck, and can possibly be more of an opportunity for Ryan to be the recipient of a couple pucks and maybe have an opportunity to put one behind” Penguins goalie Matt Murray.
O’Reilly hasn’t scored since Jan. 8 in Chicago, a slump that includes an 11-game injury absence. O’Reilly has four assists in his six games back.
“The last couple games prior to the injury, I think it was wearing on him a little bit. You could sense some frustration in his game,” Bylsma said. “We know it’s at 24 games after last night. He’d like to erase that number and score a goal, certainly, but he’s been providing a ton of offense for us.”
Buffalo needed to change its lineup because Evander Kane is out with an upper-body injury suffered Monday in Detroit.
“Not much to tell you more than it is day-to-day,” Bylsma said. “Once we get back to Buffalo, we’ll have a better idea of what he may be dealing with.”
Cal O’Reilly will take Kane’s roster spot. Chad Johnson will make his sixth straight start and be in goal for the ninth time in 11 games.
“He’s had a pretty big workload for him, and he’s put in a lot of games,” Bylsma said. “He’s well-prepared and more than able to go back-to-back like he is tonight.”
The Penguins are 8-1 in their last nine games and 27-15-5 since firing coach Mike Johnston and replacing him with Mike Sullivan. The last time the Pens made a midseason change was 2009, when they brought in Bylsma and proceeded to win the Stanley Cup.
“I see a lot of similarities in how they’re playing and the way their team is playing,” Bylsma said. “Frankly, that should be scary for a lot of people.”