NEW YORK -- Josh Gorges' balky hip kept him out of the lineup Tuesday night in Madison Square Garden and allowed the Buffalo Sabres to put their best-looking defense pair of the season back together for the game against the New York Rangers.
Jake McCabe moved into Gorges' spot alongside Rasmus Ristolainen, a pairing that was clearly Buffalo's best until coach Dan Bylsma broke it up upon the return of Dmitry Kulikov to the lineup. Zach Bogosian played with Cody Franson and Justin Falk stayed on the third pair with Taylor Fedun, who was called up from Rochester for the second time this year.
"Some of the metrics and numbers clearly are different with Jake and 'Risto' together, with Kulikov and Ristolainen together and with the pairing of McCabe and Bogosian," Bylsma said after his team's morning skate when asked about McCabe and Ristolainen.
"Even with Kulikov stepping out, we still kept the pair of McCabe and Bogosian together. ... There was a little spreading of the wealth with the pairings, with the understanding we know when that pair has been good together."
Ristolainen entered Tuesday averaging 26 minutes, 42 seconds of ice time per game this season while McCabe was at 21:26.
"It's really not that big of a deal," said McCabe, who noted his pairings with Franson and Bogosian earlier this season. "Each guy has different tendencies but you figure it out quick. You talk on the back end as much as you can, which is crucial. It really helps to figure out where each other are."
Who does Bylsma report to? It was a question certainly hanging in the air when it comes to team structure in Pegula Sports operations after Bills GM Doug Whaley reminded observers Monday that former coach Rex Ryan reported directly to owners Terry and Kim Pegula and not to Whaley at all.
In Bylsma's case, he unequivocally reports to General Manager Tim Murray, as the Sabres employ what is the norm in most franchises in the NHL and the four major sports as a whole.
"I report to Tim every day, am talking to Tim every day. And Tim talks to Terry and Kim," Bylsma said when asked by The News about the Sabres' hierarchy. "There are times when it's all of us together. I think that's a little bit more on the football side of it ... We have communication with Terry and Kim. But I talk to Tim every day and Tim talks to Terry and Kim every day."
The Sabres had announced that Johan Larsson's dislocated wrist and elbow suffered Saturday in Boston would keep him out indefinitely, but Bylsma confirmed the center's text to a Swedish newspaper was correct and that Larsson will be out for the rest of the season.
Larsson had surgery and spent Saturday night in the hospital in Boston. Bylsma said his recovery period was a minimum of 16 weeks, which would easily take him into May. Larsson had six goals and five assists in 36 this season. He was playing on a one-year, $950,000 contract and will be a restricted free agent next summer.
The NHL announced Tuesday that it had changed the scoring on the Sabres' goal in their 3-1 loss Saturday in Boston, awarding it to Kyle Okposo because it ruled Jack Eichel's slapshot hit Okposo in the right skate and deflected over Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask and into the net.
The goal is now Okposo from Eichel and Ristolainen. So heading into Tuesday's game, it created the following changes in the season's statistics:
--Okposo's team-high point goal total went from 10 to 11 and his point total moved from 23 to 24.
---Eichel's season totals went from seven goals and five assists to six goals and six assists.
---Sam Reinhart lost the secondary assist on the play, dropping his season totals to 13 assists and 21 points. The change also ended his career-high point streak at five games.
Veteran Henrik Lundqvist got the start in goal for the Rangers, three days after earning his 390th win Saturday at Colorado to pass former Sabres star Dominik Hasek as the NHL's all-time leader in wins by a European-born goaltender. Lundqvist also passed Hasek for 12th place on the NHL's all-time wins list in that game and Tuesday's start allowed him to pass former Washington standout Olaf Kolzig for the fourth-most appearances by a goalie with one team in league annals.
Tweeted Lundqvist after Saturday's victory: "Feels good to end the year on a high note. Breaking my childhood hero Dominique (sic) Hasek's wins record means a lot! The "Dominator" inspired me so much growing up, this is definitely a moment I'll always cherish."
The Sabres finished the 2016 calendar year with a 33-32-15 record. They finished the 2015-16 season with a 20-17-7 mark and Saturday's game dropped them to 13-15-8. ... Effective with the start of the new year, the Sabres and all NHL teams are wearing the league's centennial patch on their sleeves. ... Wheatfield native Adam Clendening was one of the Rangers' scratches for the fourth straight game Tuesday. He has three assists in nine games. Rick Nash, who has 13 goals, sat out for the sixth straight game with a groin injury.