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Five Things to Know as Sabres visit Florida Panthers

SUNRISE, Fla. – Kyle Okposo is back. Evan Rodrigues is out.

Here are Five Things to Know as the Buffalo Sabres visit the Florida Panthers at 7:30 p.m. Friday.

1. Lineup changes

Rodrigues, who has been playing well in an expanded role with Jack Eichel injured, did not take part in the morning skate in BB&T Center because of an upper-body injury. Rodrigues took a hard hit early in the third period of Wednesday's 2-1 overtime victory in Tampa Bay, but he remained in the game and scored the tying goal.

Rodrigues had his ribs wrapped in the dressing room following the game.

"I just know that he woke up yesterday with an upper-body soreness, so we're just being cautious with it," Sabres coach Phil Housley said after the morning skate. "He got banged up. He's got a little upper-body injury. It's more of a day-to-day situation with him, but he won't be playing tonight."

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The center's absence led to the following lines:

Benoit Pouliot-Ryan O'Reilly-Sam Reinhart
Nick Baptiste-Zemgus Girgensons-Kyle Okposo
Scott Wilson-Johan Larsson-Jason Pominville
Jordan Nolan-Jacob Josefson-Seth Griffith

2. Okposo had a girl

The Sabres alternate captain and his wife, Danielle, welcomed a baby girl. He missed Wednesday's game after she was born Tuesday.

"Everything went well," Okposo said. "Long labor, but got it done. Really happy, just proud.

"I got in yesterday morning. I came here, skated, took a nap and then slept a lot. I'm doing all right."

3. Girgensons in the middle

Girgensons flipped between wing and center through his opening five years in the Sabres' organization, but he's been on the wing most of this season. It'll take a few shifts to get back in the swing.

"I feel comfortable playing both," he said. "Maybe the first couple shifts it'll take a little to get into it, but I'm used to it. It's pretty easy to adapt.

"I do like playing low, but if you play enough games on the wing you kind of get away from the center mind."

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4. Lehner in net

Chad Johnson has won five of his last seven starts, but the Sabres are going back to Robin Lehner. The goaltender is 1-3-1 in his last five decisions and 2-5-2 in his last nine.

Lehner is 13-23-8 this season with a .910 save percentage. He is 2-3-2 with a .911 in eight career appearances versus Florida.

5. Florida is hot

Florida has won four in a row, including a 3-2 home victory over New Jersey on Thursday night. The Panthers are 7-2 in their last nine and 11-3 in the last 14.

James Reimer (15-13-5, .905) will start for the Panthers.

"We've just got to be ready because it's going to be a physical game," Housley said. "They're a team that likes to finish checks, and we have to be prepared for that. We have to have a good pushback when they push. We did a good job of that in Tampa."

The Sabres are 6-1-1 in their last eight road games and 5-0-1 in the last six within the Atlantic Division.

"I think we're really ready to go at the start of the game, and I think we're playing as a team," Housley said. "Everybody is playing for each other in there, and when you play as a team in this league, you get things accomplished."

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