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Sabres game day: Alex Tuch, Kyle Okposo to return to lineup in Nashville

Sabres game day: Alex Tuch, Kyle Okposo to return to lineup in Nashville

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Passing the puck

Buffalo Sabres right winger Alex Tuch (89) brings the puck out of the zone while pursued by New Jersey Devils left winger Jesper Bratt (63).

Matchup: Buffalo Sabres (10-19-6) vs. Nashville Predators (24-11-2)

Where: Bridgestone Arena

When: 8 p.m.

TV: MSG in Western New York

Radio: WGR 550

NASHVILLE – Amid a six-game skid, the Buffalo Sabres will move closer to full strength Thursday with the returns of forwards Alex Tuch and Kyle Okposo and defenseman Robert Hagg.

Tuch and Okposo have missed the past three games after testing positive for Covid-19, while Hagg has been out since Dec. 14 with a lower-body injury. 

"As opposed to monitoring the minutes, we're going to watch them and see how they're feeling," Granato said of Tuch and Okposo. "You can see just by their posture whether they have the strength and stamina to continue, so we'll gauge it through the game. Both are obviously excited to get back in there after a lot of sitting around and they've been on the ice for four days now. It's exciting to have them back in. They're both big, big parts."

Okposo, 33, was second on the Sabres in points (21) when he tested positive for Covid-19, while Tuch was coming off a strong performance in Boston against the Bruins. Acquired as part of the blockbuster Jack Eichel trade, Tuch had a goal and an assist in the overtime loss at TD Garden.

In three games with the Sabres, Tuch recorded one goal and two assists with four shots on goal while averaging 17:08 of ice time. Okposo, meanwhile, is on pace for 34 assists and 51 assists, both of which would be his highest totals since 2015-16.

Lines: With Peyton Krebs and Tage Thompson still in Covid-19 protocol, Dylan Cozens moved into the spot as the Sabres' first-line center. Winger Brett Murray and defenseman Will Butcher will be healthy scratches. Here's how the Sabres lined up during the morning skate in Nashville:

Aaron Dell will get the start in goal for Buffalo. Dell has an .872 save percentage and 4.52 goals-against average in seven appearances for the Sabres this season. However, Dell performed well during his time in Rochester, posting a 5-0 record and .910 save percentage for the Amerks.

Rolling along: The Predators are 12-1-1 in their last 14 games and have outscored opponents 53-34 during that span. Goalie Juuse Saros is expected to be in net. Saros has been one of the top goalies in the NHL this season, registering a .928 save percentage and 20-9-1 record.

The Predators are led by defenseman Roman Josi, who has 12 goals and a team-high 37 points in 35 games.

Nashville is first in the Western Conference with 50 points, trailing only Florida, Tampa Bay, Carolina and the New York Rangers for first in the NHL. 

"They are an extremely aggressive team," said Granato. "That group of defensemen is extremely confident. The forwards are aggressive and even force a lot of turnovers. They give the defensemen even a lot more time."

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News Sports Reporter

I've covered the Sabres and National Hockey League for The Buffalo News since November 2018. My previous work included coverage of the Pittsburgh Pirates and University of Pittsburgh athletics for

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