Eric Staal left Thursday’s game after taking an elbow to the jaw. ©2021, Micheline Veluvolu

Sabres’ Eric Staal to be game-time decision against Capitals

Buffalo Sabres center Eric Staal, who left Thursday’s 6-4 loss to the Washington Capitals after getting elbowed in the jaw, will be a game-time decision for tonight’s rematch, coach Ralph Krueger said.

Update: Staal will play tonight.

If Staal can’t play, Kruger said newcomer Riley Sheahan will be moved to center. Sheahan played right wing beside center Curtis Lazar and Jeff Skinner in the season opener.

“We’ve got a backup plan,” Krueger said on a Zoom call this morning from KeyBank Center. “We’ll probably make that call before five o’clock.”

Krueger said rookie Dylan Cozens, who made his NHL debut Thursday at right wing, could be an in-game option to play center, his natural position.

“We love the way Dylan entered yesterday,” Krueger said. “He was extremely responsible, being able to break down video now last night and this morning. You could really see how smart he is in both directions and you can see the center experience in him.

“Depending on what happens here, that could even be in-game again, a situation where you might want to push for a little more offense and he does give us that option. Initially, we would want to be a little more stable defensively down the middle.”

Halfway through the third period Thursday, after Staal backhanded the puck into the Washington zone at center ice, Nic Dowd hit him high, knocking him to the ice.

Dowd was only penalized two minutes for an illegal check to the head.

The Sabres acquired Staal, 36, from the Minnesota Wild on Sept. 16 to center the second line.

In other injury news, Krueger said winger Kyle Okposo will miss his second straight game tonight.

“We’re hoping he gets back in the next few days,” Krueger said. “It could be day-by-day or it could be three or four.”

The Sabres will assess Okposo again before they play road games against the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday and Tuesday.

“He’s recovering,” Krueger said. “It’s been a positive couple of days and we do expect him back soon.”

While Krueger wouldn’t officially reveal tonight’s starting goalie, he has said action will likely be split for back-to-backs, meaning Linus Ullmark will almost certainly start.

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