DETROIT -- Joel Armia is going to be nervous tonight during his NHL debut in Joe Louis Arena. That's to be expected. But the Sabres are thin all over their lineup due to injury and illness -- and Armia is playing on the top line with Zemgus Girgensons and Tyler Ennis. He's going to have to be ready from the opening faceoff.
"I asked him if he's nervous and obviously he is but he's probably more excited than nervous," coach Ted Nolan said this afternoon after the team's pregame skate. "Just go out, enjoy the game and try to get that nervousness out of your system real quick. There's no time for it. We need him playing the way he can play minus the nerves."
"It may be a little bit easier to come here. There's so many guys up here from 'Roch' that I played with," said Armia of his former Rochester Amerks teammates. "I know almost everybody here from camp."
Armia was thrilled to learn he'll be on the top line tonight and the soft-spoken Finn smiled broadly when the topic was broached.
"It's great," he said. "I'm going to be a little bit nervous the first shift probably but I hope it goes away.
"He's playing with two pretty good players," Nolan said. "His hockey IQ is above average so I just told him to give those guys the puck and try to get in position to get it back and vice versa with those guys. With all three, it should make for an interesting line."
Girgensons is as curious as anyone in the building tonight to see how his new winter pans out.
"He's an unbelievable player," Girgensons said. "His hands are just amazing. The things he can do with the puck are crazy. I hope he can do something tonight."
As for the Sabres' injuries, the list of players out of the lineup looks like this: Brian Gionta, Marcus Foligno, Matt Moulson, Tyler Myers, Mike Weber, Cody McCormick, Torrey Mitchell. Patrick Kaleta (flu) is back in and Michal Neuvirth (flu) is good enough to start in goal.
Nolan said Gionta has no concussion but will need to be re-examined for an upper-body injury when the team returns home. He said there's some disappointment Boston's Matt Bartkowski did not get a suspension for the hit.
"I didn't see all the angles. From the angle we saw on our camera, it certainly looked like the head was the main point of contact but that was only from one angle," Nolan said. "We couldn't really tell. The league has all kinds and I don't think anything is going to slip by them so we'll have to accept what they give up.
"Sometimes unfortunately some of our players put themselves in vulnerable positions. Does that give you the green light to hit them in that position? Sometimes the sportsmanship should come out but, once in a while, that doesn't seem to be the fact anymore."
Weber (knee) could play tonight but Nolan said the Sabres will wait one more game before he returns to the lineup. McCormick, who is on injured reserve, skated today and is getting closer. Nolan said during his weekly radio interview today that Myers was out week to week but clarified after practice that he could return this weekend, which would be more than a week from the injury.
Click below to hear audio from this afternoon with Armia and Nolan