One of these days, the Sabres might have their whole lineup on the ice. The season opener might not be one of those days.
Top forwards Kyle Okposo (bruised knee) and Ryan O’Reilly (midsection, back) skipped practice Tuesday, leaving their status up in the air for Thursday's opener against Montreal in KeyBank Center. The players skated on their own early and O’Reilly did some power-play work with the whole group, but he wasn’t well enough to stick around.
“I wanted to get a feel for the power play,” O’Reilly said. “We had a real good chance to work at it, so I wanted to be out there and get a feel for it. I skated this morning earlier and felt good. Hopefully, we’ll practice with the boys tomorrow and get another feel. Hopefully, it’ll be all right.
“It’s day-to-day right now. We’ve got to be smart. The next test is tomorrow. We’ll see how it is with contact and playing with the guys and go from there.”
O’Reilly left Wednesday’s preseason game with spasms in his back and midsection, coach Dan Bylsma said, and he hasn’t been with the team since.
“In the morning skate I started to feel something in my abdomen, which I usually do, and just kind of think something wasn’t firing properly right off the faceoff,” O’Reilly said. “Something just didn’t feel right, and it was tough to come back. There was no point in risking it.”
Bylsma said even if O’Reilly plays, the Sabres’ faceoff king won’t take draws for a while.
“It’s something you deal with every second you’re on the ice, exacerbated when you’re taking a draw and you’re locking horns with another guy,” the coach said. “It’s safe to see we won’t see him take a faceoff for another few days, for sure, but that he is getting better and has gotten better.”
Okposo has been sidelined since taking a slap shot off his knee during practice Oct. 3. He watched Tuesday's practice from the bench in street clothes.
“He is getting better each day,” Bylsma said. “He also really hasn’t skated for eight days, nine days now. That is a concern about that situation.”
The Sabres’ 23-man roster is due at 5 p.m. Tuesday, and it’s possible O’Reilly and Okposo are placed on injured reserve. Bylsma said if that’s the case, the players could be placed retroactively to their injury dates, meaning they wouldn’t have to sit out for an addition seven days and would be eligible for the opener.
The good news for the Sabres was Dmitry Kulikov (butt bruise) and Zach Bogosian (groin) returned to practice and are expected to play Thursday.
Rasmus Ristolainen won’t skate again until he signs a contract, meaning 19-year-old Brendan Guhle will likely avoid a trip back to juniors and start the season with Buffalo as the seventh defenseman.
“We are going out west for three games,” Bylsma said of the Sabres’ road trip after the season opener. “We are going to be taking seven defensemen. … We’ll go the distance with keeping him around.
"I think he’s shown quite a bit in the last couple games he’s played that he could play in an NHL game. He’s a junior player. If he gets reassigned, it’ll be to junior and he won’t be able to come back, so it’s to keep him as long as possible given some of the other scenarios.”