Rasmus Ristolainen (55) hits Carolina's Jeff Skinner on Dec. 22. ©2017, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Rested Rasmus Ristolainen ready to return to Sabres

BUFFALO – For Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen, his three-game suspension meant he received a short break from the rigors of a long season.

“I got a good rest,” Ristolainen said of his absence. “I worked out well, picked up practices and I’m ready to go. It felt like a month.”

Ristolainen’s ban for hitting Pittsburgh’s Jake Guentzel is over. The workhorse will return for Sunday afternoon’s home tilt against the New York Islanders.

While the rest felt good, Ristolainen didn’t want it.

“I don’t like resting,” he said this morning inside HarborCenter. “Obviously, I can’t say it didn’t feel good. I got some good sleep, a couple days off. So I feel really fresh right now.”

The Sabres will make at least one other lineup change Sunday. Coach Dan Bylsma said newcomer C.J. Smith, who signed a two-year contract Thursday, will make his NHL debut.

The 5-foot-11 winger skated beside center Evan Rodrigues and captain Brian Gionta today.

“(I’ve) really kind of noted his puck skills and his tenaciousness on the puck,” Bylsma said of Smith. “He’s not a big guy. He’s not going to be fooling anyone out there with his size. I’ve liked the way in practices he’s competed on pucks and been tenacious on pucks.”

Bylsma said winger Kyle Okposo, sidelined with the flu last game, is still sick and will miss Sunday’s game.

Meanwhile, while defenseman Cody Franson (hyperextended joint) has been practicing, he told the Times Herald he plans to return Monday against Toronto. The Sabres don’t want to force him into back-to-back games.

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