BUFFALO – When Johan Larsson scored his first goal this season Monday, the winner with 3:13 left in the Sabres’ 2-1 comeback win in Detroit, coach Dan Bylsma couldn’t quite read the center’s body language.
“Whether he was happy, relieved, matter of fact,” Bylsma said this morning after the Sabres prepared for tonight’s game against the New Jersey Devils. “I know he’s been pressing for a while now not having scored. To get that one and to get it at that point in time, it was probably a big sigh of relief is what we saw from him.”
Naturally, Larsson’s first score in 28 games this season and 30 overall dating back to April 6 was a big relief. He finished 2014-15 as the Sabres’ top center, scoring five goals and 14 points in the last 20 contests.
But he struggled from the get-go this season, switching back to wing briefly and becoming a healthy scratch.
“Tough start, absolutely,” Larsson said inside the First Niagara Center. “I’ve had my chances to play, but in and out.”
Check back later for more on Larsson.
In other news, goalie Linus Ullmark, who won for the first time in seven games Saturday, will start against the Devils, one of the NHL’s biggest surprises at 15-11-4.
The rest of the lineup will be decided at game time, Bylsma said. Forward Cal O’Reilly, a healthy scratch all five games since getting recalled Dec. 5, will skate in the pregame warm-up, he said.
Update: Winger Marcus Foligno is out tonight, meaning O’Reilly will make his Sabres debut and play his first NHL game since Feb. 15, 2o12. Foligno has an upper-body injury.
In injury news, Sabres goalie Robin Lehner hasn’t experienced a setback in his recovery from the high ankle sprain he suffered Oct. 8, opening night, Bylsma said. The Sabres said Lehner would miss six to 10 weeks then. A “Hockey Night in Canada” report on Saturday said Lehner recently had a setback and would miss another three to four weeks.
Lehner has been on the ice in full gear this week going into his butterfly motion.
“I wasn’t aware of one,” Bylsma said about a setback. “He did a good number of reps going into his butterfly on the ice two days ago and again today. Dealing with a high ankle sprain, there is always … some discomfort. That’s why it’s a long and arduous comeback from that, and as a goalie going into that position an awful lot, it strains it every time you do that.
“He’s had a number of good days on the ice. He’s up to a new level going into the butterfly a few days ago. He did it again today.”
Some other notes for tonight’s game:
– Center Ryan O’Reilly’s eight-game point streak is the longest by a Sabres player since Tim Connolly’s 16-game run from Dec. 23, 2009 to Jan. 25, 2010.
– The Sabres’ power play is operating at 30.8 percent (eight of 26) in the last eight games.
– The Sabres are gunning for their fourth straight home win.