BUFFALO – Instead of utilizing Sam Reinhart or Kyle Okposo at right wing on the No. 1 line tonight, Sabres coach Phil Housley will give youngster Tage Thompson a look beside center Jack Eichel and Jeff Skinner.
Thompson, 20, scored a nifty goal in Friday’s 5-3 loss in Toronto, carrying the puck into the zone before toe-dragging and unleashing a wicked wrist shot from the right circle.
“I really liked what he brought to the game last night, some speed, tenacity on the forecheck,” Housley said this morning. “He really used his speed in the right areas in the transition part of the game and had some good looks last night.”
But the 6-foot-5, 205-pound Thompson, a key acquisition from St. Louis in the Ryan O’Reilly trade, caught Housley’s attention two weeks ago during the Prospect Challenge rookie tournament. Thompson has carried that into training camp.
“He’s had a great camp, he’s brought a lot of great energy to our group,” Housley said. “It’s good to see him continue to develop in the right way.”
Reinhart, who ended his holdout Wednesday and joined practice the next day, will skate beside Patrik Berglund and Evan Rodrigues in his preseason debut.
“We’re just going to throw him right into the fire,” Housley said. “Let’s get him an opportunity, see what he’s going to do. When you think about that situation, the assessment won’t be so much critical; it will just be trying to get his feet underneath him.”
Reinhart said: “At this point, everyone’s in the same boat trying to get the rust off and trying to get into game shape. The best way to do that is hop into games.”
Meanwhile, defenseman Zach Bogosian will also play his first exhibition game, his first outing since Jan. 9. Bogosian underwent season-ending hip surgery during the winter.
The rest of tonight’s lineup against the Maple Leafs inside KeyBank Center:
Justin Bailey, Johan Larsson and Okposo
Scott Wilson, Kyle Criscuolo and Tyler Randell
Marco Scandella and Rasmus Ristolainen
Rasmus Dahlin and Jake McCabe
Nathan Beaulieu and Bogosian
Carter Hutton will start in goal and be backed up by Scott Wedgewood.
Star Auston Matthews and former Sabres winger Tyler Ennis are expected to play for the Leafs tonight.