This will be Ryan O’Reilly’s third season wearing a letter. ©2017, Hickling Images, Olean Times Herald

Sabres plan to rotate alternate captains

BUFFALO – Sabres general manager Jason Botterill wasn’t kidding when he said he believes leadership is a collaborative effort.

This morning, hours before their season opener, the Sabres named four alternate captains: defenseman Zach Bogosian and forwards Jack Eichel, Ryan O’Reilly and Kyle Okposo.

Botterill said Wednesday the Sabres wouldn’t begin the season with a captain.

“Our coaches sat down and really evaluated the situation,” coach Phil Housley said after the Sabres prepared for the Montreal Canadiens. “We felt the guys that we named, we have total confidence, and in just talking with Jason, he was very comfortable with the decisions.”

With no captain, three players can wear the ‘A’ each game, so Housley plans to alternate. Bogosian (lower body) won’t play tonight.

The Sabres rotated the ‘A’ throughout the preseason. O’Reilly has worn the letter the past two seasons. Okposo, meanwhile, occasionally wore it last season.

“We’ve got a lot of good leaders in this room, there’s many guys not wearing a letter that still contribute in so many ways,” O’Reilly said. “Obviously, it’s nice to wear something, but there’s responsibly with that. On the ice, you got to have good communication with the refs, whether it’s staying on them or talking things out.”

The Sabres didn’t re-sign former captain Brian Gionta. Defenseman Josh Gorges, an alternate captain the past three seasons under two coaches, will be a healthy scratch for Housley’s first game tonight.

Naturally, Housley, a Hall of Fame defenseman and a Sabres legend, said he’ll “be a little nervous until the game gets going” inside KeyBank Center.

“I’m excited, too,” he said.

Here are tonight’s forward lines and defense pairs from left to right:

– Evander Kane, Eichel and Jason Pominville

– Benoit Pouliot, O’Reilly and Okposo

– Johan Larsson, Jacob Josefson and Jordan Nolan

– Zemgus Girgensons, Sam Reinhart and Seth Griffith

– Nathan Beaulieu and Rasmus Ristolainen

– Jake McCabe and Victor Antipin

Marco Scandella and Matt Tennyson

Goalie Robin Lehner will start, his first of what the Sabres probably hope will be 60 nods this season.

Antipin, 24, will make his NHL debut. Meanwhile, Pominville, who was brought back from the Minnesota Wild on June 30, will play his first real Sabres game since April 2, 2013.

Scandella, who arrived with Pominville, will make his Sabres debut. The newcomer missed all six exhibition games so he could rest his hip following surgery in May.

“He can bring a physical element to our team, protecting our net front, playing physical down low, but also he can add to our rush offensively,” Housley said of Scandella. “He’s got great mobility.”

The Sabres will also scratch veteran winger Matt Moulson.

Check back later for more on Gorges and Tennyson.

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