BUFFALO – Nick Deslauriers, center? Believe it. For tonight at least, the defenseman-turned-winger will pivot the Sabres’ fourth line against the New York Rangers.
To make room for Deslauriers, a healthy scratch the last two games, center Cal O’Reilly will sit.
Update: O’Reilly is on waivers, according to reports.
Deslauriers, Bylsma said, has never played center before. Still, he’s “comfortable down low, comfortable going back for pucks,” Bylsma said this morning inside KeyBank Center.
Bylsma will also utilize his top centers for key faceoffs.
“If you see a D-zone draw that’s not an icing, it will most likely be Jack (Eichel) or Ryan O’Reilly stepping in there,” he said.
The Sabres have received an alarming lack of production from their fourth-line centers. Cal O’Reilly has only one assist in 11 games, although he scored the shootout winner Nov. 19. Derek Grant contributed just three assists in 35 games before the Sabres lost him on waivers to Nashville.
Deslauriers, who will have William Carrier and Tyler Ennis as his wingers, has zero points in 23 games.
In other news, Sabres goalie Robin Lehner will start tonight, his second straight nod. The Swede made 30 saves in Tuesday’s 5-2 loss in Montreal.
Lehner is 2-2 with a 3.73 goals-against average and a .900 save percentage in four career games against the Rangers.
Backup goalie Anders Nilsson has beaten the Rangers twice this season, posting a 2.00 goals-against average and a .920 save percentage.
Tonight begins a stretch in which the Sabres play 11 of their next 16 games at home, where they’ve won four straight contests.
If the seventh-place Sabres can make a push soon, then perhaps general manager Tim Murray won’t sell off assets before the upcoming trade deadline.
“The 11 games we have, how many points we get and how we climb up the standings is going to be a big indicator as to what happens in February,” Bylsma said.