Henri Jokiharju to miss, at least, two games with lower-body injury

Buffalo will get Kyle Okposo and Victor Olofsson back from illness against the Blues

(WGR 550) – The Buffalo Sabres will try to put three bad performances out of their last four games behind them on Friday when they take on the Blues in St. Louis.

The latest ugly performance was a 4-0 loss at the hands of the Montreal Canadiens. Buffalo’s puck management was about as bad as it had been all season, with Montreal’s hustle causing the Sabres to turn the puck over at every turn.

The Sabres will be without defenseman Henri Jokiharju for this game and the next with a lower-body injury suffered against the Canadiens. Head coach Don Granato hopes to have him back after that.

Meanwhile, both Victor Olofsson and Kyle Okposo missed the Montreal game due to illness and both will be back in the lineup on Friday.

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Granato revealed Friday they weren’t the only two players that were sick. He had others that tried to gut it out during the game, but they still can’t play that poorly

“Your first reflex is to get mad at guys and you can, and you push guys, but behind the scenes, we had several guys that were not feeling good," Granato explained after the morning skate. They were fighting illness, and they tried to compensate by taking shortcuts. When you’re tired and you’re sick, you try to take shortcuts and you can’t. But we brought it to their attention that no matter how you feel, you can’t press.”

Good teams are able to play through things like that and still win games. The Sabres haven’t gotten to that point yet

“Part of growth in this league for young players is being able to adjust in Game 53 when you’re beat up understanding that you can’t do what you normally do, and understanding how to compensate when you don’t have your legs or don’t have your energy," Granato said. "I felt the other night, we tried to compensate early by cheating a little bit, keeping our momentum instead of stopping in defensive position and waiting for the puck to come to you.”

Robert Hagg will return to the lineup on Friday against the Blues. He’ll play with Mark Pysyk on the blue line, while Rasmus Dahlin will pair up with Casey Fitzgerald.

Mark Jankowski and Brandon Biro are both the healthy scratches, with Biro having actually been sent back to the Rochester Americans.

Dustin Tokarski will get the start in net for Buffalo. He has struggled mightily this season, with bad goals beating him in each of his last three starts. He’s 5-7-4 this season with a 3.35 goals-against average and a .902 save percentage.

The Blues are the only team the Sabres haven’t played yet this season. It’s their first game against them in almost two years.

Former Sabres forward Ryan O’Reilly had two fantastic seasons after being traded by the Sabres. He won the Conn Smythe Trophy the year the Blues won the Stanley Cup in 2019, and really was the league’s best player in the playoffs. It was something he didn’t even come close to achieving in Buffalo, and who knows if he would’ve played at that level had he stayed.

O’Reilly is now back playing the way he did in Buffalo, which is playing below his capabilities. He only has 32 points in 46 games this season, with Jordan Kyrou and Pavel Buchnevich both having 13 more points than the Blues captain.

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Vladimir Tarasenko asked to be traded from St. Louis this past offseason, but he’s still there and is their leading scorer with 19 goals and 27 assists for 46 points.

Ville Husso has taken over as the Blues' No. 1 goalie, as he’s been quite a bit better than Jordan Binnington. Husso is 12-3-2 with a 1.97 goals-against average and a .936 save percentage. Husso has won three of his last four starts, giving up nine goals.

St. Louis is near the top of the league in many categories. The Blues are third on the power play, fourth in the penalty kill, fourth in goals-for and sixth in goals-against. Their .660 points percentage is eighth in the NHL.

Join Pat Malacaro and myself at 7 p.m. EST for pregame coverage on WGR when we’ll hear from Granato.

Photo credit Losi and Gangi