BUFFALO – In Friday’s practice, Sabres coach Don Granato changed every forward line, tinkering with trios that have recently developed chemistry and enjoyed success.
Granato often explains how he wants his lineup to become interchangeable. While he showcases more patience than most coaches – lines and defense pairs sometimes stay intact for weeks – he’s not afraid to experiment within games or try new things.
So for tonight’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers at KeyBank Center, the Sabres will have four news lines.
“The guys were excited about it,” Granato said this morning of the fresh lines. “You say that and then you’re like, ‘Weren’t you excited about your old linemate?’ And they were excited about that, too. I think there was good energy yesterday in practice and they like that challenge I put in front of them to be interchangeable.”
The new lines, from left to right: Jeff Skinner, Tage Thompson and Victor Olofsson; Peyton Krebs, Casey Mittelstadt and Alex Tuch; Rasmus Asplund, Dylan Cozens and Kyle Okposo; Anders Bjork, Zemgus Girgensons and Vinnie Hinostroza.
Bjork will replace center Cody Eakin, who’s still experiencing mobility issues from an undisclosed injury that recently sidelined him two games. Bjork has been scratched 19 of the last 20 games.
In other lineup news, Granato said defenseman Mattias Samuelsson, who missed Thursday’s 6-2 loss to the St. Louis Blues with a lower-body injury, will be a game-time decision.
Update: Samuelsson will play tonight.
Samuelsson, who blocked a shot in Tuesday’s 5-2 road win over the Toronto Maple Leafs, participated in the Sabres’ optional skate this morning.
“He went out earlier this morning and felt good and then we pushed him through more, the coaches did, so we’ll see how he’s responding to that,” Granato said. “Give him the afternoon and if he responds fine, he’s good to go, he’ll go in.”
In Samuelsson’s place Thursday, defenseman Will Butcher enjoyed perhaps his best game this season.
“He was noticeable,” Granato said. “He looked like Will. I know him, I know his history. He’s a Hobey Baker winner. He’s a highly skilled guy. He’s a very talented offensive guy with great offensive instincts and he was moving very well. His mobility and agility you could see the other night, we haven’t seen that enough this year. … It was a great game by him the other day.”
Meanwhile, Granato did not announce tonight’s starting goalie. The Sabres play Sunday in Philadelphia, so Granato said Craig Anderson and Dustin Tokarski will likely split the games.
Update: Anderson will start tonight.