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Sabres Notebook: Justin Falk expected to make season debut on defense

The Sabres figure to have a big addition on defense Thursday night as 6-foot-5 Justin Falk will likely make his season debut in the game against the Arizona Coyotes.

Falk has not played this season due to an undisclosed lower-body injury that flared up during the preseason. Falk played 52 games for the Sabres last season, collecting eight assists while playing the most games in a season for one team in his career. His previous high was 47 with Minnesota in 2011-12.

"I was able to build some confidence over the course of last year and that was probably the first time since my first year in the NHL to be honest that I've played consistently," Falk said Wednesday in HarborCenter. "I've always been a depth guy and I've always supported that role, but it was nice to get a consistent amount of playing time and really be able to build your confidence and your game."

Falk was on the third pair Wednesday with Victor Antipin. Taylor Fedun, who was called up from Rochester on Tuesday, was the extra defenseman. The top two pairs remained the same, with Marco Scandella pairing with Rasmus Ristolainen and Matt Tennyson with Jake McCabe.

Falk said the injury was particularly frustrating because he felt like his preseason games had been going well.

"Timing wasn't great obviously. I was really getting into rhythm," he said. "I thought the preseason went well. I was moving well, being physical, bringing the elements I needed to bring and I'm looking forward to doing that here shortly."

Falk said the most difficult time was the week the Sabres were away on their West Coast trip and he was left to skate on his own.

"You're part of a brotherhood here and you want to help and contribute," he said. "Then you watch the team go on a long road trip and you're back at the rink here rehabbing by yourself. You miss the camaraderie of it all."

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Justin Bailey sat out practice Wednesday with a lower-body injury so the Sabres brought Nicholas Baptiste up from Rochester as a precaution and said he will travel on the trip, which continues Saturday in Dallas.

"We thought we'd bring an extra forward," said coach Phil Housley. "Bailey has a lower body injury and is day to day so we wanted to keep him off the ice with the possibility of him playing tomorrow. And we wanted to have somebody to come with us."

In eight games with Rochester, Baptiste is tied for the team lead with three goals and is third on the club with five points. He had a pair of goals in the final two minutes of the third period Friday as the Amerks came back to force overtime against Laval in a game they eventually won, 4-3.

Baptiste, 22, had three goals and an assist for the Sabres in 14 games last year, his first taste of the NHL. But he did not make much of an impact during training camp this year and was never really in the competition to make the roster as free-agent signee Seth Griffith earned the call.

The Sabres made no changes to their lines at practice Wednesday. Seth Griffith simply slipped into Bailey's spot with Zemgus Girgensons and Sam Reinhart, and Baptiste could slide into that spot Thursday.

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With the Baptiste move, the Amerks recalled Vaclav Karabacek from Cincinnati of the ECHL, where he had no points in four games. Karabacek, the Sabres' second-round choice in 2014, had three goals and five assists in 23 games for the Amerks last year.

The Amerks have also signed forward Colin Blackwell off his tryout contract for the rest of the season. He has two goals and one assist in eight games, with all three points coming in Rochester's 5-2 win Oct. 25 at Laval. Blackwell played 57 games last year for the San Jose Barracuda, totaling four goals and seven assists.

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With the Bills-Jets game in the Sabres' normal spot on the dial on WGR Radio, the Sabres-Coyotes game will move down to WWKB (1520 AM).

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