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Sabres vs. Maple Leafs preview: Okposo, Kulikov return

Two teams, separated by a river and a border, and a playoff position meet tonight in Buffalo.

Toronto Maple Leafs v Buffalo Sabres Photo by Jen Fuller/Getty Images

Game #75

Buffalo Sabres (30-32-12) vs. Toronto Maple Leafs (35-23-15)

Puck drop: 7:00 p.m. EST | KeyBank Center | Buffalo, NY

TV: MSG, CBC | Radio: WGR 550

SB Nation’s Leafs Blog: Pension Plan Puppets

Three Questions

1. How will the team look with all the healthy bodies back in the lineup?

The Sabres are getting some serious reinforcements tonight, as Kyle Okposo, Dmitry Kulikov, William Carrier, and Justin Falk are all returning to the lineup. Of course they’ll be without another big player (more on that in a second) but getting these guys back should help tremendously, especially the returning Okposo. His last game was back on March 2, and his blend of speed and power will definitely improve Buffalo’s top six.

2. Who will carry the load on defense without Rasmus Ristolainen?

The Sabres clear-cut #1 defenseman for the past two years has been Rasmus Ristolainen, but he isn’t available for the next three games, and the question of who replaces his 27-ish minutes a night will be a big one. The team has recalled Brady Austin from Rochester, who has been fairly impressive in his limited time up in Buffalo, and Dmitry Kulikov returns to the lineup tonight, but the most likely candidate to eat up more of Risto’s minutes to me is probably Zach Bogosian. Sigh.

3. Which team will capitalize on the power play?

The Leafs and Sabres have the #1 and #2 power play units in the NHL, so tonight should be a special teams bonanza. The Sabres will need to stay away from unnecessary penalties tonight (we’re looking at you, Kane) to limit Toronto’s chances with the man advantage.

Projected Buffalo Lines

63 Tyler Ennis -- 90 Ryan O'Reilly -- 21 Kyle Okposo
82 Marcus Foligno -- 15 Jack Eichel -- 23 Sam Reinhart
Evander Kane -- 71 Evan Rodrigues -- 12 Brian Gionta
48 William Carrier -- 28 Zemgus Girgensons -- 26 Matt Moulson

Josh Gorges -- 47 Zach Bogosian
29 Jake McCabe -- 34 Casey Nelson
77 Dmitry Kulikov -- 41 Justin Falk

Goal: 40 Robin Lehner