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Sabres game day: Jack Eichel's career-high ice time an 'aberration'

Matchup: Buffalo Sabres (24-24-8) vs. Detroit Red Wings (14-39-4)
Where: KeyBank Center
When: 7 p.m.
TV: MSG
Radio: WGR 550

Extra push: Ralph Krueger isn't afraid to go "all-in," the first-year Sabres coach told reporters following the morning skate Tuesday. Krueger used the phrase when describing Jack Eichel's ice time in a 3-2 loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday in KeyBank Center.

Eichel skated a career-high 28:22, the most ice time by a Sabres forward since Miroslav Satan logged 28:40 on Nov. 15, 2002. Eichel's 24:48 at even strength Sunday was the most recorded by a Buffalo forward since the NHL began tracking ice time in 1997-98.

Eichel's shifts averaged one minute, eight seconds, and he's at 57 seconds per shift this season, which is tied for the 12th-longest in the NHL. The 23-year-old center is averaging a career-high 22:08 of ice time through 55 games. He has a career-high 31 goals with 38 assists and a team-best plus-15 rating.

"That was, of course, an aberration, but no, I wasn't surprised," Krueger said of Eichel's ice-time total. "We did everything possible, like we do every night, to win and a tired Jack Eichel on the ice right now increases our mathematics of scoring. Most of those minutes were down in the last five, six minutes. It was pushing him. We're communicating all the time. There were a lot of timely timeouts there. He was at either end of the timeouts in the third period and that can happen.

"There's a lot of fight in this group. There's no give-up in this group. There's no give-up in this coaching staff, so we tried what we can do. Of course, those aren't minutes you're shooting for. Jack settling in at 21, 22 minutes, he has no problem with it. He's an unbelievably conditioned athlete. He does a really good job of using days off. I knew we had a complete day off yesterday and we went all-in. It didn't work, but we tried."

Lineup: Though Kyle Okposo and Victor Olofsson participated in the Sabres' morning skate, neither will play Tuesday night against Detroit. Okposo has missed the past five games with an upper-body injury suffered on his first shift against Montreal on Jan. 30.

Defensemen Lawrence Pilut and Zach Bogosian are expected to be healthy scratches. Krueger adjusted his lines again, putting Jeff Skinner with Evan Rodrigues and Michael Frolik. Here's how the Sabres lined up during the skate Tuesday morning:

Starting goalie: Carter Hutton will start in goal for the fifth time in seven games since Linus Ullmark suffered a lower-body injury against the Ottawa Senators on Jan. 28. Hutton was unavailable to play Sunday against Anaheim because of "family circumstances," according to the team.

The 34-year-old stopped 37 of 39 shots in a 3-2 win over the New York Rangers in Madison Square Garden last Friday.

Miller time: Perhaps Colin Miller simply needed some semblance of consistency. The Sabres have a 57% 5-on-5 shot differential with Miller on the ice over the past seven games, the highest mark on the team during that span. The 27-year-old's 57.22% expected goal share also ranks second on Buffalo's roster behind Jimmy Vesey.

The Sabres are finally attempting to give Miller a consistent defense partner, and he's no longer being asked to play on the left side.

Reinforcements: Winger Anthony Mantha is expected to be in Detroit's lineup for the first time since he suffered a punctured lung Dec. 21 against Toronto. Mantha has 12 goals with 12 assists in 29 games, and he had 49 goals over the previous two seasons. He has nine points in 14 career games against Buffalo.

Series: This is the fourth and final meeting between Buffalo and Detroit this season. The Sabres are 6-2-2 in their last 10 games against the Red Wings. The road team has won seven of the last eight meetings between the Sabres and Red Wings, including each of the last five.

The Sabres lost to the Red Wings, 4-3, in a shootout last week. Eichel has 14 points in his last 13 games against Detroit.

Standings watch: The Sabres entered Tuesday 10 points behind the third-place Toronto Maple Leafs and 13 points back of the second wild-card playoff spot. Detroit, meanwhile, is last in the NHL with 32 points, 11 fewer than the Los Angeles Kings, and has a negative-95 goal differential.

The Sabres gave up three goals on Anaheim's first six shots Sunday. Slow starts have been an issue for Buffalo over the past two months.

"There’s no question that good starts make for a much easier night," Krueger said. "We know the mathematics on winning when you’re down a goal in the National Hockey League early, it’s an uphill battle. So we need to have a good start. We didn’t have a good start against Detroit last time they were in here. We were chasing that game all the way and we did the same against Anaheim. We just need to be ready from the get-go. ... But there’s no question that we need to play our game, play within our principles and stick to those without feeling the pressure of the home crowd to try to put on some kind of offensive show. It’s got to grow out of our defense, that’s the way we play dangerous offense, is when our defense is the foundation."

Bounce back: After a slow start to the season, Rasmus Dahlin has been outstanding when in the lineup for the Sabres. The 19-year-old defenseman has two goals with eight assists for 10 points in his last 12 games. Dahlin has four goals with 27 points with a minus-2 rating in 46 games this season.

Dahlin's 75 career points trail only Phil Housley (132), Ray Bourque (79) and Rick Hampton (76) for most points ever recorded by a teenage defenseman. Dahlin's .67 points per game this season represent the best single-season scoring rate by a Buffalo defenseman since Brian Campbell (.68) in 2007-08.

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