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Sabres Notebook: Ristolainen downgraded; Beaulieu on power play; Kane scoring

The Sabres are going to be without Rasmus Ristolainen for longer than originally planned.

"It's more of a week to week situation right now," coach Phil Housley said Thursday.

Ristolainen suffered an upper-body injury Nov. 2 in Arizona. He was listed as day to day, but Housley downgraded the defenseman after he missed two games and has yet to practice.

The Sabres could get defensive help Friday when they host the Florida Panthers in KeyBank Center. Josh Gorges has proclaimed himself ready after missing eight games. Nathan Beaulieu practiced with the second power-play unit, a sign he could play after missing seven games with an upper-body injury.

"He's getting really close, him and Josh," Housley said. "They had a really good practice. It's good to see him out there in competitive battles and a more meaningful practice."

With those two close, the Sabres returned defenseman Zach Redmond to Rochester after their workout.

If Beaulieu is ready, it could provide a needed boost to the power play. It ranks 29th at just 11.5 percent.

"It's always nice to get some looks out there," Beaulieu said. "I'm an offensive guy, so you don't want to lose too much of that information while you're sitting out. It's good to get some reps, for sure.

"Things are going on the right path. I feel better."

Justin Falk has played admirably on the top defensive pair in place of Ristolainen. He's expected to stay with Marco Scandella after delivering five hits and three blocked shots Tuesday against Washington.

"I've really liked the attitude that he brings every day," Housley said of Falk, who missed the opening 12 games with an injury. "He brings life and energy to our team, and he's delivered and played physical on the opposing top players right now. He's just got continue to do that.

"It's not just the physicality. He puts himself in harm's way with a couple big blocks against Washington on their power play, which is great to see because it really lifts our bench."

The other defensive pairings Thursday were Jake McCabe-Taylor Fedun, Beaulieu-Antipin and Gorges-Redmond.

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With three goals in three games, Sabres left wing Evander Kane has re-established himself as one of the NHL's top scorers. Kane has nine goals and was in a tie for sixth heading into Thursday's schedule.

"He's just a true competitor," Housley said. "He approaches the game the right way, and he can score goals, too. He's a gritty guy who goes to areas that a lot of people don't go to, and I really like when he brings a physical element to his game.

"He's been really, really consistent this year."

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There is a bright side to the Sabres' power play. It has gone seven games without allowing a short-handed goal. The last came Oct. 20 against Vancouver.

Buffalo is tied with the New York Islanders for most short-handed goals allowed (six).

"We didn't sense danger," Housley said. "We were waiting and hoping a guy was going to keep a puck in, and all of a sudden it's coming back and they get a two-on-one or a breakaway. I think we had to recognize, 'This guy could be in danger. Maybe we should step off and wait and see what happens,' instead of hope that the guy was going to make a play.

"It's just having urgency."

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The Panthers are 0-3-2 in their last five games, dropping to 4-8-2 this season. It's easy to spot their problem.

While Florida ranks sixth overall in scoring at 3.43 goals per game, it is last in goals allowed. The Panthers have given up a whopping 4.14 goals per night.

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