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Pair of key debuts highlight Sabres' lineup

EDMONTON -- In his pregame briefing here Sunday afternoon, Sabres coach Dan Bylsma made official what seemed likely at practice Saturday: Winger Kyle Okposo and defenseman Dmitry Kulikov will make their Buffalo debuts tonight when the Sabres play the Edmonton Oilers in Rogers Place.

Kulikov (bruised tailbone) and Okposo (bruised knee) both sat out Thursday's opener against Montreal. Okposo takes over the injured Evander Kane's spot in the lineup while Kulikov will take over for Casey Nelson, who struggled mightily at times against the Habs. Nick Baptiste, called up yesterday from Rochester, will be the healthy scratch at forward.

Kulikov was penciled in as Rasmus Ristolainen's defense partner when he was acquired from Florida, but Bylsma said he may be brought along slow. That could mean he will initially take Nelson's slot opposite Cody Franson.

"There's a ton of areas Dmitry can help us out but he's just getting his feet wet with our game and playing for our team," Bylsma said. "He can help us in penalty kill, in shutdown and eventually on the power play as well. I'm going to have to break him in probably slower than I'd like to."

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Okposo is likely headed for the top line with Ryan O'Reilly and Sam Reinhart and the top power-play unit. The Sabres practiced special teams almost exclusively here Saturday, needing to reconstruct things with Kane and Jack Eichel out of the lineup. The first unit had Okposo on the point with Rasmus Ristolainen, with O'Reilly up front along with Reinhart and Matt Moulson.

"We've had to wait to get everybody together and that still hasn't happened," Bylsma said. "So we've taken more time than normal a few practices leading to game one and practicing yesterday with continuity groups and plays putting in the power play."

A reminder about start times and TV on this one: Faceoff is shortly after 7 p.m. Eastern time (it will be just after 5 out here). The game will be on MSG and, if you're outside of Buffalo, you can watch it on NHL Network because it's a national telecast across Canada on Rogers Hometown Hockey.

Robin Lehner starts in goal for the Sabres. The Oilers, who are 2-0 and have scored 12 goals in sweeping a home-and-home series with Calgary, are expected to start Cam Talbot in goal.

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