After three days of training camp, the Buffalo Sabres quickly move into game action Monday night as the Carolina Hurricanes hit KeyBank Center for the preseason opener. The 7 p.m. game will be broadcast on WGR Radio but will not be televised. Tickets are $22-$45 at the box office (but can easily be had for as little as $6 on StubHub).
Here are Five Things to Know about tonight's game:
1). Housley grabs some bench for the first time: Phil Housley will be part of a game with the Sabres for the first time since April 15, 1990. That was Game Six of a first-round playoff loss to Montreal at the Forum and Housley was traded to Winnipeg that offseason. More than 27 years later, Housley takes over as an NHL head coach for first time with the team that drafted him in 1982.
"I'd be lying to you if we say when the game comes I'm not going to be nervous being a head coach for the first time behind the bench," Housley said after the morning skate. "It's quite exciting for me. At the same time, we've worked on a lot of things these last three days trying to implement our systems. I just want to see the execution."
What kind of team will the Sabres be?
"My message is to just go out and work hard," Housley said. "Don't hesitate. If you make a decision to go, go. We'll deal with the mistakes as they come but I want us to play with a lot of speed and attitude tonight. We've been working on our pace the last couple days for sure. It will be interesting to see how that will translate in the game."
2). The Sabres' lineup: Jack Eichel is among those who will be sitting this one out but the Sabres will still have a pretty representative lineup on the ice. Kyle Okposo will be playing in a game for Buffalo for the first time since March 27 against Florida. He missed the rest of the season and later landed in neuro ICU after a severe reaction to concussion medication.
The lines and defense pairs at the morning skate looked like this:
Zemgus Girgensons-Ryan O'Reilly-Kyle Okposo
Benoit Pouliot-Sam Reinhart-Stevie Moses
Seth Griffith-Evan Rodrigues-Cliff Pu
C.J. Smith-Kyle Criscuolo-Justin Bailey
Brendan Guhle-Rasmus Ristolainen
Jake McCabe-Taylor Fedun
Casey Nelson-Cody Goloubef
Robin Lehner will start in goal and Linus Ullmark will serve as the backup. Housley said it's undecided if Lehner will go the route or if Ullmark will see some action as well.
3). Who's missing: Notable names sitting this one out at forward include Eichel, Jason Pominville, Johan Larsson, Nick Baptiste, Hudson Fasching and Matt Moulson. Defenseman not playing tonight include Zach Bogosian and as well as newcomers Marco Scandella, Victor Antipin and Nathan Beaulieu. Goaltender Chad Johnson is also not in tonight's lineup.
4). The Sabres' newcomers: Six players will appear in a game with the Sabres for the first time tonight. The lone veteran in the group expected to make the roster is winger Benoit Pouliot, signed as a free agent in July. Seth Griffith, Kyle Criscuolo and former KHL scoring star Stevie Moses may seem ticketed for Rochester, although Moses is getting a big chance playing with Pouliot and Sam Reinhart. Defenseman Cody Goloubef is on a tryout contract.
The lone junior player getting a look is London Knights scoring star Cliff Pu, who was strong during the Prospects Challenge and has continued to work well during the main training camp.
"He earned a game tonight," said Housley, who praised the way Pu attacked the prospect games to make a quick impression. "He's a terrific player, really smart, has an edge to the game and goes to the net hard."
5). The Hurricanes' lineup: The visitors did not skate here today, as they will fly in this afternoon. Jeremy Smith, who split last year between Colorado and San Antonio, will start in net and the Carolina lineup will also include the likes of standout defenseman Noah Hanifin and speedy winger Jeff Skinner.
Veteran winger Lee Stempniak of West Seneca was slated to play but coach Bill Peters said today he's dealing with unspecified soreness and will stay home. Williamsville native and Nichols product Andrew Poturalski, who made his NHL debut late last season with Carolina, is slated to play and center the Canes' third line. The former University of New Hampshire star had 19 goals and 33 assists for Charlotte of the AHL last year and did not register a point in two NHL games.