Where: BB&T Center, Sunrise, Fla.
When: 5 p.m.
Radio: WGR 550.
Crowded blue line: Sabres coach Ralph Krueger used practice Saturday to “play with some looks” on the blue line. Rasmus Dahlin was reunited with Zach Bogosian, who could make his season debut against the Panthers. Colin Miller was also playing his off-side on a pairing with Brandon Montour.
Jake McCabe remained with Rasmus Ristolainen and the same goes for Marco Scandella with Henri Jokiharju. It remains unclear whom will be scratched now that John Gilmour has joined the Rochester Americans.
However, Krueger will instead use seven defensemen and 11 forwards. He informed the media Sunday afternoon Miller will be scratched, while Bogosian will make his season debut. The thinking is Bogosian can help on the penalty kill and this look will also make the Sabres less predictable.
Curtis Lazar will also be a healthy scratch.
“I think it’s unpredictable if the team likes to match,” Krueger said. “As an example, it’s almost impossible with lines being mixed and matched and different bodies going different places. It gets complicated. Seven D will be the same. It will be more about us creating pace through that and having good, quick line changes. … I actually enjoy it. I think it’s quite a creative way to play in a system like ours where it’s pretty clear what you have to do, no matter who you’re on the ice with, whether you’re right, left or center.
“It doesn’t mean as much as some of the more structured formations here in the league, and I think also for the D there’s a certain awareness that when you have different linemates, different D pairs that principles and concepts are more important, really, than thinking outside the box. We need a good team game today and we feel this will set us up for it.”
Potential lineup: Center Marcus Johansson remains away from the team as he recovers from an upper-body injury that has forced him to miss five games. Krueger confirmed Johansson won’t play Sunday in Sunrise or Monday in Tampa Bay.
“It doesn’t look like he’ll be joining us here for these two games,” Krueger said. “We hope to get him back early next week. He’s close but not close enough to bring him down here.”
That has tested the Sabres’ depth down the middle, however, Rasmus Asplund has performed well since being recalled from Rochester. Though Buffalo has lost nine of its last 10 games, Krueger is thrilled with how the Sabres performed Thursday in Boston.
The Bruins had not allowed as few as four shots on goal in one period in almost four years. That’s a significant accomplishment against one of the top teams in the National Hockey League. Here is how the Sabres lined up during practice Saturday:
Sabres’ lines/pairings at practice in Coral Springs:
— Lance Lysowski (@LLysowski) November 23, 2019
Bogosian ready: Naturally, Bogosian smiled at the first mention of possibly returning to game action. He hasn’t been on the ice against an opponent since March 23 and was limited to 65 games last season.
Bogosian suffered multiple setbacks in his return from hip surgery last summer, but he could assist the Sabres’ penalty kill, which ranks 31st in the NHL during November. Bogosian also formed an excellent pairing with Dahlin last season and can provide the Sabres with the type of physical presence they need.
“Bogo has been really outstanding to have around, first of all as a person,” Krueger said. “Off the ice, he’s very emotional and so far he’s bringing a good spirit in on a daily basis since he’s been in practice. He’s a personality and he’s somebody who can help us moving forward with his experience, his ability to kill penalties and also play the team game. We just look forward, and I’m seeing it more and more in practice, his confidence is going up in practice. I’m sure he’ll be an added asset to us.”
Ullmark in goal: The Sabres will start Linus Ullmark in goal for the third consecutive game. Ullmark has a .921 save percentage in six career games against the Panthers. Carter Hutton will likely start Monday in Tampa Bay.
Ullmark has a .910 save percentage in 10 games this season, allowing 3.00 goals-against average. Sam Montembeault will start for the Panthers, who lost at Carolina, 4-2, Saturday night.
Bad history: Since the calendar turned to November, the Panthers are 6-3-1 and their power play ranks fourth in the NHL. Additionally, they have a plus-4 goal differential and their top players are leading the way. Jonathan Huberdeau has three goals among 15 points and Aleksander Barkov has six goals among 14 points during that span.
The Sabres defeated the Panthers, 3-2, in a shootout on Oct. 11. However, Buffalo has not won two games against Florida in a season since 2016-17. Since then, the Sabres are 2-6-1 against their Atlantic Division rival.
This would be an opportune time for the Sabres’ power play to build off the success it had Thursday night in Boston. The Panthers’ penalty kill is converting at a rate of 79.2% since Nov. 1.
Opposing player to watch: Panthers winger Evgenii Dadonov entered Sunday tied for first on the team with 10 goals and his 20 points ranked third. He’s also played outstanding against the Sabres during his career, recording six goals among 17 points in 13 games.