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Sabres ready to ring in New Year at home, where they are 9-2 in last 11 games

There's a tendency for teams to to hand out gratuitous compliments to their home fans. After all, it's not smart to insult the paying customers.

The Sabres have been praising the fans in Buffalo lately, and in this case it makes perfect sense. The Sabres, who host Tampa Bay on New Year's Eve, are 9-2 in their last 11 games in First Niagara Center.

"We’re just excited to play at home," forward Brian Flynn said after Wednesday's morning skate. "Our crowd’s been awesome, especially recently."

The Sabres came back from a 3-0, third-period deficit during their last home game, a 4-3 shootout victory over the New York Islanders.

"That game against the Islanders, they gave us a lot of momentum when we got our first goal," Flynn said. "The crowd was really into it, so it’s been a fun atmosphere."

This will be the Sabres' 24th home game on New Year's Eve. They are 12-8-3 on the holiday.

The Sabres will start Jhonas Enroth in goal, and the netminder is 4-1-1 with a .934 save percentage and 2.13 goals-against average against the Lightning.

Buffalo will be without defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen for the second straight game. He skated Wednesday but is still recovering from the flu.

"He’s available," coach Ted Nolan said, "but this is the first time he touched the ice in four, five days, so we’re going to let him get his feet back underneath him and put him in next game."

Andre Benoit will be the Sabres' healthy scratch on defense. Tyson Strachan will return after missing five games with a lower-body injury.

"Strachan is a very reliable, dependable guy," Nolan said. "You know what you’re getting from him. He’s not going to go coast-to-coast. He’s not going to make that big hit in the defensive zone. He’s just a reliable, safe defenseman."

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