Sabres are without Hinostroza, Thompson in Ottawa

There's been no word on the severity of Hinostroza's injury yet

(WGR 550) – The Buffalo Sabres will be missing two of their better forwards when they face the Senators in Ottawa on Tuesday night.

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Tage Thompson couldn’t travel with the team, because you can’t cross into Canada within 10 days of a positive COVID-19 test.

Meanwhile, Vinnie Hinostroza was injured in Monday’s game against the Detroit Red Wings and only played 10:36. There’s no word yet on the severity of Hinostroza’s injury.

Hinostroza has eight goals in 36 games this season, which would be 18 goals over 82 games.

As for Thompson, he's on pace for 27 goals and 54 points over 82 games. He has six points in his last six games.

With both Thompson and Hinostroza unable to play on Tuesday, that puts Brett Murray and Mark Jankowski into the lineup.

Michael Houser gets his first NHL start this season. Last year, he needed to play due to injuries and broke into the NHL, going 2-2-0 with a 3.46 goals-against average and a .901 save percentage.

When Aaron Dell was out to be with his wife, who was having a child, Houser got all the starts with the Rochester Americans. Sabres head coach Granato says that helped him with his game.

“He did get better as he progressed in those games in Rochester," he said following Tuesday's morning skate. "I think that was a big help for him. I mean, last year was quite an experience for him to go through, as he got thrust into a situation that he never would’ve expected. This time around, he has a little more hindsight, and he’s a guy that teammates want to play in front of.”

Jeff Skinner has three goals and four points in his last three games. He has 14 goals, and is on a 32-goal pace this season. Granato said he and Skinner have an understanding.

“Coming into the season is when I saw a real change," he said. "He was very committed and adamant to change this, and he was willing to grind through a process. He came in in great shape, he practiced harder and with more intent, and the results didn’t follow early, but he battled. When you see that, I think it’s your job as a coach to help put that type of a player in a position to succeed. That was my conversation with Jeff - if you’re going to continue that, then I’ll do my part to put you into positions to succeed.”

This is the first time these two teams have met in almost two years. The NHL has postponed many of Ottawa’s this season games due to COVID-19 protocols, and the fact that the Canadian government is severely limiting fans at games. The Senators have only played three games in the last 19 days, winning two of them.

That puts the Sabres five points ahead of the Sens in the Atlantic Division, but Ottawa has seven games in hand. In points percentage, the Senators are 28th in the NHL at .387, while the Sabres are 29th at .382.

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Matt Murray is back up from the AHL and played all three of those games allowing six, one and four goals.

Murray isn’t even close to what he was when he won two Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins. This season, he’s 2-6-0 with a 3.41 goals-against average and an .892 save percentage. Murray only got two games while down in Belleville with the Senators.

Drake Batherson is a NHL All-Star for the first time in his career. He’s Ottawa’s leading scorer with 10 goals and 20 assists for 30 points in 26 games. Josh Norris is their leading goal scorer with 16 in 30 games.

Batherson was taken in the fourth round of the 2017 NHL Draft, while Norris was the 19th overall pick by the San Jose Sharks in that same draft. He was part of the Erik Karlsson trade.

Join Schopp and the Bulldog for pregame coverage on WGR starting at 6 p.m. EST when they’ll be joined by Granato.

Photo credit Losi and Gangi