The Buffalo Sabres open their highly-anticipated 2015-16 on Thursday night, and it looks as though they will be doing it without their captain in the lineup.
Brian Gionta suffered a lower-body injury late in practice on Wednesday, leading to speculation that he could miss the opening contest against Ottawa. On Thursday, that speculation became closer to reality when he wasn’t on the ice for the team’s morning skate at First Niagara Center.
With Gionta out of the lineup, rookie Sam Reinhart will likely get the nod on the team’s second line with fellow rookie Jack Eichel and Evander Kane. For Reinhart, this is a prime opportunity to show that he belongs with the main roster as opposed to being sent down to Rochester, which remains a possibility.
Head coach Dan Bylsma has spoken in the past about the potential of Eichel and Reinhart — who started camp at center, but has since moved to the win — playing on the same line together. The two rookies being alongside a veteran presence in Kane could make for some highlight-reel plays for the Sabres as they get the season underway. Kane was originally on a line with Tyler Ennis and Ryan O’Reilly, but he and Eichel showed instant chemistry during the preseason. Moving to the first line was Matt Moulson, with whom Eichel is living with this season.
But where there is bad news on the injury front, there is good news. Defensemen Josh Gorges is expected to draw back into the lineup after missing time with an injury. Gorges hasn’t played in a regular season game since suffering a knee injury last February.
The rest of the Sabres lines for tonight’s game, based on the morning skate, are as follows:
Mouslon – O’Reilly – Ennis
Kane – Eichel – Reinhart
Girgensons – Larsson – Foligno
Deslauriers – Legwand – McGinn
Gorges – Pysyk
Weber – Franson
Colaiacovo – Ristolainen