Phil Housley chose not to make wholesale changes following another defensive letdown Thursday night. The Buffalo Sabres' coach will start Linus Ullmark in goal this afternoon against the Detroit Red Wings in KeyBank Center. Opening faceoff is 1:08 p.m.
The only lineup change is Tage Thompson will replace C.J. Smith, who has scored in two of his last three games for Buffalo. Defensemen Nathan Beaulieu and Matt Hunwick will be the healthy scratches.
With two games this weekend, Housley opted to use Ullmark because the 25-year-old had 35 saves in a 3-2 shootout win in Detroit on Nov. 24. Carter Hutton will likely start Sunday against Winnipeg, which scored only one goal on 26 shots against him Nov. 16.
"Linus has played some very solid hockey for us," Housley told reporters Saturday morning. "He had a solid game against Detroit and we take that into [consideration]. Carter had a good game against Winnipeg. We'll see after this game who is going to get the next start, but Linus is playing today."
Ullmark has an .871 save percentage over his past five games; however, he has received little help from his teammates. That has forced him to make a number of acrobating, highlight-reel saves. He has also allowed few soft goals and has done a better job controlling rebounds. Ullmark has started seven of the past 10 games for Buffalo.
Smith, who was recalled from Rochester on Monday, scored in the Sabres' 5-4 shootout win over Minnesota on Tuesday. He played 10:01 in a 6-5 overtime loss to Carolina on Tuesday, a performance that resonated well with Housley.
Thompson scored against the Red Wings earlier this season, which Housley said prompted the lineup change. The Sabres' defensive lineup was unclear during Friday's practice since Lawrence Pilut and Jake McCabe skated in a drill at the same time as Beaulieu and Hunwick.
In the past, Housley has chosen to change his pairings following a loss, but neither Pilut nor McCabe played particularly poor against the Hurricanes. While the personnel didn't change, Housley opted to switch the pairings.
Marco Scandella and Rasmus Ristolainen, who are playing in their 500th and 400th career NHL games, respectively, are on the top pairing. Rasmus Dahlin will again skate with Zach Bogosian, while Pilut is paired with McCabe, who will again play on his off-side.
The Sabres have allowed four or more goals in eight of their last 10 games and 45 goals over that span.
#Sabres lines/pairings during practice:
Smith is the extra forward
— Lance Lysowski (@LLysowski) February 8, 2019