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Sabres' forward lines take shape, but defense is banged up

After trimming their roster Saturday, the Sabres took the ice in one condensed group rather than the multiple packs that had been the norm throughout training camp. It was much easier to see the Sabres' plans for their forwards and the lack of healthy bodies on defense.

With only Ryan O'Reilly missing up front in KeyBank Center, Buffalo coach Dan Bylsma assembled the following lines:

Evander Kane-Jack Eichel-Sam Reinhart
Tyler Ennis-Zemgus Girgensons-Kyle Okposo
Marcus Foligno-Johan Larsson-Brian Gionta
Matt Moulson-Derek Grant-Nicolas Deslauriers
Hudson Fasching-Cal O'Reilly-Alexander Nylander

Ryan O'Reilly could easily slide into the second line, bumping Girgensons, Larsson and Grant down one.

"You’ll see us get a little closer to what the top nine are going to look like," Bylsma said.

Things are much more fluid on defense. Though Rasmus Ristolainen is practicing, he doesn't have a contract. Dmitry Kulikov sat out Saturday with a "bruise to his butt bone," Bylsma said. Zach Bogosian also didn't practice because he was meeting with doctors about a mild groin strain suffered during Thursday's exhibition.

"Left the game more on precaution than it was an injury," Bylsma said.

Tyson Strachan was also absent from the blue line with an ankle sprain.

The good news for the defense was the appearance of Taylor Fedun. It was the first practice for the free-agent signee since suffering two fractures in his foot in April.

"It just dragged on throughout the whole summer," he said. "I was expecting it to not be an issue at this point, that’s for sure."

The 28-year-old has appeared in the NHL with Vancouver, San Jose and Edmonton, putting up two goals and seven points in 12 games. The 6-foot, 200-pounder has an opportunity to put himself in contention for a spot on the blue line.

"One of my strengths is using my hockey sense and smarts out there to play a strong positional game and distribute the puck fast," Fedun said. "I’ve had some really good opportunities to play on teams that encouraged me to move pucks and jump into the rush."

While the Sabres practiced in the big arena, Rochester opened its training camp in HarborCenter. Bylsma hopes the guys sent down show they want to move back across the street. Buffalo has three preseason games left before opening the season Oct. 13.

"There’s going to be opportunity sooner than later," Bylsma said. "We’re going for three in four and we’re going to play back-to-back games ... and with injury situations and bumps and bruises we have, there may be an opportunity for some of those guys to join us on that trip.

"They’ve been sent with that message don’t hang your head here. There’s going to be opportunity, and it could be coming shortly. A lot of guys have the opportunity to earn maybe one or two more games."

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