Lineup mystery: The Sabres will be without defenseman Rasmus Dahlin (upper body), center Johan Larsson (lower body) and center Curtis Lazar (illness) tonight. Each is considered day to day and it appears defenseman Brandon Montour (lower body) will be in the lineup.
Forward Rasmus Asplund has been recalled from Rochester to replace Lazar and Larsson in the lineup. The Sabres will use 11 forwards and seven defensemen, with Zach Bogosian drawing in. Though most of the lines are unknown, it's likely that Jimmy Vesey will remain with Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart.
Vesey had three shots on goal in 17:56 during Buffalo's 2-1 overtime win over Columbus on Saturday. He has six goals with eight assists and a plus-12 rating in 48 games this season.
Here's how the Sabres lined up during practice Monday:
Here are some of the lines/pairings we've seen in practice this afternoon:
Skinner-Rodrigues (placeholder for Larsson?)-Dea
— Lance Lysowski (@LLysowski) February 3, 2020
Goalie: Carter Hutton will start in goal after stopping 22 of 23 shots Saturday against Columbus, his first victory since Oct. 22. Hutton has a .946 save percentage since Linus Ullmark suffered a lower-body injury in the third period against Ottawa on Jan. 28.
Another slump: Jeff Skinner has not scored a goal in his past 14 games. The 27-year-old winger had three shots on goal with a minus-1 rating in 15:37 against the Blue Jackets on Saturday. He's creating scoring opportunities, but the Sabres are in desperate need of offense.
"There’s a lot of variables that go into it," Skinner said of his offensive game. "You have to sort of find a way to add up all those small things and be the difference. For me, sort of clicking with my linemates, getting some time in the offensive zone. That’s when it’s starting to roll around and that’s when the opportunities start to be created. I think there’s been some more of that in the last little while and we’re going to try to keep that up."
Home swing: Despite losing each of their first two games following the break, the Sabres still have a favorable schedule over the next two weeks. Six of their next seven games are in KeyBank Center, including two against the Detroit Red Wings.
The Sabres' power play at home ranks 15th in the NHL, compared to 18th on the road. The larger discrepancy is on the penalty kill, as the Sabres are 30th on the road and 22nd at home. Eichel's 1.58 points per game at home was tied for fourth in the league entering play Monday, and Reinhart has 15 points in his last 12 home games.
"It’s normal coming off a long injury after a couple of games you might have a little bit of a dip, and we’re also working hard together with Jeff to get him back into that space," Krueger said. "The pressure of scoring is so big on him, and he needs to park that and create chances again and get involved in our game 5 on 5 and chances will follow. He wants to add and he feels that pressure because we aren’t scoring as a team right now. We need to just get him back focused on doing all the other things and have that be a byproduct of his game."
Standings watch: The Sabres are 10 points behind the third-place Florida Panthers in the Atlantic Division and 11 points behind the New York Islanders for the second wild-card playoff spot.
The Avalanche, meanwhile, are third in the Central Division, eight points behind the first-place St. Louis Blues. Colorado won three consecutive games until its 6-3 loss at Philadelphia on Sunday. Its power play has scored in each of the past two games, and the Avalanche went 5-2-2 in January.
Rookie sensation: Hockey fans were robbed of a matchup between of the top rookies in the NHL. Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar, who competed at the Frozen Four in Buffalo this past April, ranks second among all rookies with 37 points, trailing only Vancouver defenseman Quinn Hughes (39).
Victor Olofsson led all rookies with 35 points when he suffered a lower-body injury against Edmonton on Jan. 2. His 16 goals now rank second behind Dominik Kubalik. Olofsson now faces long odds at becoming a finalist for the Calder Trophy, and he's still week to week.
Superstar matchup: Eichel and Nathan MacKinnon entered Tuesday ranked eighth and fourth, respectively, in points. The Sabres' 23-year-old captain has 31 goals with 34 assists for 65 points, while MacKinnon has 30 goals with 42 assists for 72 points.
Eichel is on a three-game goal streak and has two goals with four assists in seven career games against Colorado. MacKinnon had five points in two games against Buffalo last season, and he had the goals during a two-game span last week.
"He’s got kind of everything," Frolik said of MacKinnon. "He’s a big guy and he’s so fast. His hands are incredible. I think compared to (Connor) McDavid, this guy has size, so he can out-power you and go to the net hard. McDavid is all about speed, but (MacKinnon) is a big guy. He’s fun to watch sometimes. He’s got that power for a big, heavy guy."