The Buffalo Sabres start a back-to-back weekend with the New Jersey Devils, hosting the 7:05 p.m. game in KeyBank Center Friday night. The Sabres are just 1-3-1 at home and Jersey is 1-3-2 on the road. What do you need to know about tonight's game? Glad you asked:
1. Ryan O'Reilly returns. After missing one game with a middle body injury, O'Reilly will return to the Sabres lineup. The center has eight points and four assists, ranks second among NHL forwards in average ice time (22:16 per game) and ranks third in faceoffs won (108).
"I felt really good. I feel 100 percent ready to go," O'Reilly said. "It definitely was something minor. Everyone's been dropping like flies. We've got a lot of good players out but we have to do what we can with the bodies that we have."
2. Falk is up, Kulikov is out. The Sabres recalled defenseman Justin Falk for the first time since signing the unrestricted free agent over the summer. Falk has spent much of the last three seasons on the AHL-NHL shuttle. While it will be his first NHL game with the Sabres, he brings a veteran presence along with the excitement that still comes with a call-up.
"Any time you have a chance to be back in this league and step foot in the NHL, it kind of makes those dreams come true all over again," Falk said. "It's been a little bit. Some time between stints but I'm looking forward to going out there and putting my best foot forward."
Dmitry Kulikov will miss the game with an undisclosed injury. In other blueline news, Jake McCabe will play in his 100th career game.
3. Back-up goalies get the start. It will backups Anders Nilsson for Buffalo and Keith Kinkaid for New Jersey in net. This is the fourth start for Nilsson who is 1-1-1 with a 1.96 goals against average and a .937 save percentage. In six career appearances against the Devils, Nilsson is 4-1-0 with a .952 save percentage.
"He's been an extremely hard worker in net for us consistently and that's what he's brought when he's played," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said about Nilsson. "He's been excellent in net for us. ... You're just as confident putting him in the net on a back-to-back night as really you are with a starter. He's given the confidence to all of us that he's going to go out there and give us a great game."
This will be the third start of the season for Kinkaid who is 1-0-1 with a 1.98 goals against and a .937 save percentage.
4. The Sabres are looking for more offense at home. The Sabres have scored just six goals in five games in KeyBank Center. In three games they've scored just once, they were shut out by Minnesota on Oct. 27, and netted three in their lone home win against Florida on Oct. 29. But getting more goals doesn't necessarily mean generating more shots.
"If we’re looking to increase our analytics we can shoot from the other end of the rink and from the red line and from the blue line and from outside. That's not going to necessarily get us more goals," Bylsma said. "There are bad shots to take. If volume of shots means you’re getting more volume of shots from the inside and from Grade-A opportunities and from second chances, we need more volume. But if more volume means shooting the puck for the sake of shooting it, that's not necessarily where our focus needs to be."
5. A new look to New Jersey. The Devils acquired Taylor Hall in the summer and the left-winger has added an offensive dynamic to the team. He has nine points with five goals this season after netting 26 goals with 65 points for Edmonton last year.
"He's a top-end dynamic player for them and that's something they haven't had," Bylsma said. "They've been doing it by committee offensively the last couple of years and he's at another level."