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Sabres Notebook: Evan Rodrigues gets the call on Jack Eichel's line

TAMPA — The quest to find a right winger for Jeff Skinner and Jack Eichel continued here Thursday night and it was a familiar face for Eichel.

Evan Rodrigues, who played on the same line as the Buffalo captain during the 2014-15 season at Boston University, got the call for the Sabres' game against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Rodrigues entered Thursday's game with eight goals and 13 assists on the season. He had six goals in eight games in one recent stretch but came into this game with just one point in his last six appearances.

Rodrigues said the key to playing with Eichel is to always be ready for the puck.

"He can make such incredible plays that you can't ever be shocked by the things he does," Rodrigues said. "One thing that's overlooked is that he's such a dynamic player that you actually try to get away from him on the ice, let him do his thing one on one. Pull guys away from him. When he gets a guy 1 on 1, there's few centers or defensemen that can stop him. You try to find open areas, the weak side of the ice, and be prepared for what he's capable of doing."

Coach Phil Housley said the move was as much for Rodrigues' defense as well as his skating ability.

"We're just trying to mix it up again," Housley said. "We're not getting a lot of even strength (offense) but that's really not my concern here. It's when we don't have the puck. That's going to give us the best chance to win. We have to check well. Certainly 5-on-5 scoring can take pressure off our goaltenders. Evan has been playing really well so it's interesting to see how that pans out."

At Boston U, Rodrigues played on a line with Eichel and Danny O'Regan, now playing with the Rochester Amerks.

"He's a smart hockey player and works hard," Eichel said. "That makes him a pretty easy guy to play with."

"From the first game we played together, it seemed we knew where each other was going to be," Rodrigues said. "We knew to find open ice. We both like going across ice. We tried to stay away from each other, give each other space to find an open area and give each other a release."

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The Sabres scratched Lawrence Pilut on defense as the rookie is minus-4 over the last three games and has just one point in the last 13 games he's played.

Nathan Beaulieu was in the lineup for the second straight game. Casey Nelson, who is back from his conditioning stint in Rochester, still has not played with the Sabres since Dec. 4.

The Sabres dressed seven defensemen for the pregame warmup and Pilut serving as the scratch became evident when he took no line rushes.

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The Rochester Amerks are expecting a couple of big additions to their lineup for Friday night's game at Utica as forwards Alex Nylander and Sean Malone are both slated to return to the lineup after extended absences.

Malone has been out for 16 games and Nylander for eight, both with lower-body injuries.

Nylander, Buffalo's first-round pick in 2016, has eight goals and 16 assists in 42 games this season. Malone has two goals and eight assists in 24 games.

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