Published by hockeybuzz.com 2-24-2017
According to cbssports.com, Buffalo forward Zemgus Girgensons has been activated by the Sabres and will be playing tomorrow night in Colorado against the Avalanche. Girgensons has been out the last eight games with what has been described as a mid-body injury (sometimes even "full-body injury" by head coach Dan Bylsma.)
The 6'2" 200 lb. Girgensons had been centering the third line since shortly after center Johan Larsson went on IR last month. Having Larsson out for the season created an opportunity for Girgensons to work his way back up the line up and he's responded well. In 17 games this calendar year he has seven points (3g + 4a) and is a plus-4. He did his best work while centering LW Evander Kane and RW Brian Gionta while averaging well over 15 minutes of ice-time per game.
Girgensons' return will give a boost to the bottom six as rookie Evan Rodrigues had been in his spot while the fourth-line center role fell to Derek Grant and defenseman-turned-winger-turned-center Nicolas Deslauriers. Neither player has had a particularly good season so far. Grant is still without a goal in his 86-game NHL career and was waived and claimed twice this calendar year while Bylsma hasn't been able to trust Deslauriers giving him only around four minutes average ice-time the last five games.
With "Gus" returning and Grant's status questionable at this point, Bylsma could put Girgensons back at No. 3 center while sliding Rodrigues down to the fourth line.
Although there's been no official word on the status of forward Sam Reinhart, it would seem as if the bye week would allow him ample time to return from a bout with the flu that caused him to miss two games. The Sabres missed him dearly on the powerplay in those two games as they went 1/10 with their only goal coming in a 5-on-3 situation against the Blues.
With the return of both Girgensons and probably Reinhart, the top-six should look like this:
Justin Bailey-Ryan O'Reilly-Kyle Okposo
Evander Kane-Jack Eichel-Sam Reinhart
Buffalo has three players on recall at this time--Bailey, Rodrigues and Nick Baptiste--and with Girgensons and Reinhart back in the lineup it's likely that Baptiste will be back in Rochester. Baptiste played well with a goal and an assist vs. St. Louis in his first game on this recall while playing on a line with Eichel and Kane.
That leaves a bottom-six for Buffalo that could look like this:
Tyler Ennis-Rodrigues-Matt Moulson
When it comes to the forward ranks, it's not a bad proposition having to focus on the bottom-six with five spots in the top-six well-manned.
Defense is another story, but one that probably won't be an area of focus until the Sabres come home from this Mountain Timezone road trip that features a stop in Colorado tomorrow night and another in Arizona for a game against the Coyotes on Sunday.