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Sabres game day: Henri Jokiharju elevated to top power play

Matchup: Buffalo Sabres (12-10-5) vs. New Jersey Devils (9-12-4)

Where: KeyBank Center

When: 7 p.m.


Radio: WGR 550.

New look: When the Sabres concluded line rushes during the morning skate Monday, coach Ralph Krueger unveiled a significant personnel change on his top power play. Defenseman Henri Jokiharju, 20, quarterbacked the first unit, skating alongside Jack Eichel, Jeff Skinner, Victor Olofsson and Sam Reinhart.

The power play is amid a 1-for-37 slump and its problems have worsened since Rasmus Dahlin suffered a concussion last Monday against Tampa Bay.

Jokiharju has been one of the Sabres' most consistent defensemen, posting a plus-2 rating with two goals among seven points in 27 games. He has recorded only 2:50 of ice time on Buffalo's power play and did not see much time during the man advantage with the Chicago Blackhawks last season.

However, Jokiharju has the skill set to neutralize the way opponents are pressuring the puck on the power play.

"With the way penalty killing is today, you don’t have the time and space that you sometimes think you’d have because of the attacking nature of everybody, whether it’s through the neutral zone or into the o-zone before you get control," Krueger explained. "We just like the way he solves pressure, and he has a lot of confidence on the puck right now. That’s why we see him as an option there."

Starting goalie: Linus Ullmark is expected to make his seventh start in 10 games for the Sabres. The 26-year-old has a .906 save percentage during that span and has a .895 save percentage in seven career games against the Devils.

Sabres' lineup: Krueger will reveal his lineup during the pregame warmup Monday night. The Sabres likely will use seven defensemen, which would make Jean-Sebastien Dea and Curtis Lazar healthy scratches. Winger Kyle Okposo (concussion) skated with the team Monday morning for the first time since he was hit in the head by Ottawa Senators defenseman Ron Hainsey on Nov. 16.

Okposo is still "a ways away" from taking on-ice contact, according to Krueger. Here is how the Sabres lined up Monday morning:

Standings watch: The Sabres entered Monday fourth in the Atlantic Division, only two points behind the second-place Florida Panthers. Buffalo's minus-4 goal differential is the sixth-worst mark in the Eastern Conference.

Top line: Krueger is pleased with the development of his top line's defense at 5 on 5. However, Eichel, Reinhart and Olofsson are also on pace for milestone seasons.

Eichel is on pace for career highs in goals (49) and points (106), which would be the highest goal and point totals by a Sabre since Pat LaFontaine and Alexander Mogilny in 1992-93. Reinhart is on pace for a career-high 27 goals and Olofsson is one pace for most goals by a Sabres rookie (30) since Donald Audette's 31 in 1991-92.

Series history: A win over the Devils would clinch the Sabres' first series win against New Jersey since 2013-14. It would also give Buffalo wins in three straight home games against the Devils for the first time since 2013-14. The Sabres are 3-6-1 in their last 10 games in the series.

The Devils have lost four of their last five games and were shut out, 4-0, by the New York Rangers on Saturday. New Jersey went 0-for-8 on the power play and ranks 28th in the NHL on the man advantage.

Devils' starters: Goalie Louis Domingue will be in net for the Devils. The 27-year-old is 1-1 with a .926 save percentage since being acquired from Tampa Bay. Domingue has a .898 save percentage in six career games against Buffalo.

Man down: Devils rookie center Jack Hughes will miss a second consecutive game with a lower-body injury. Hughes, who was drafted first overall last June, has four goals among 11 points with a minus-8 rating in 24 games this season.

Opposing player to watch: Devils winger Taylor Hall has 11 points in 13 career games against the Sabres. Hall spent his first three seasons in the NHL playing under Krueger in Edmonton, the first two when the latter was an assistant coach.

With Krueger behind the bench, Hall scored 65 goals among 145 points in 171 regular-season games.

Founders: Monday marks the 50th anniversary of the National Hockey League awarding an expansion franchise to Seymour H. Knox III and his brother, Northrup R. Knox.

Family members of both Knox brothers will be on the ice for a pregame ceremony and video presentation ahead of puck drop Monday in KeyBank Center. Family members of the original board of directors also will be recognized.

'Founders Night' celebration to mark 50th anniversary of Sabres' franchise

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