By Patrick Leclerc-USA TODAY SportsOn Wednesday, the Buffalo Sabres announced the return of their training camp roster to full strength.
After a three-game suspension for violating the league’s anti-drug program, defenseman Ryan O’Reilly is expected to return to the lineup in Buffalo, as is forward Travis Zajac, who was sidelined with a broken bone in his left leg in mid-December.
Forward Ryan Carter is also expected to make the trip.
Buffalo’s training camp is now in full swing, but it was a bit of a letdown to see so many of its players miss a significant chunk of the season.
Buffalo Sabres center Ryan O. Reilly (No. 21) and defenseman Ryan Carter (No, 24) both missed significant portions of training camp after testing positive for cocaine.
(Getty Images)O’Reilly, Carter and forward Travis Zachajac were suspended three games for using cocaine in January.
Carter also tested positive for another banned substance in January, according to the Buffalo News, but he was cleared for return to action by the NHL on Jan. 25.
The Sabres announced on Tuesday that Carter will start the preseason finale against the Florida Panthers on Saturday, Jan. 31.
The team’s next two games are Saturday against the Montreal Canadiens and Sunday against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Carter will play the next two regular-season games in his return, though.
He is expected back in the lineup on Saturday.
The 25-year-old winger has been a consistent presence for Buffalo this season, scoring seven goals and nine assists in 20 games.
He has played on the top line with Zajacs, who has two goals and six assists.
The pair has been good together on the powerplay, where Carter has five goals and five assists.
Carter, however, was a key part of the Sabres’ penalty kill in 2016-17.
He also played on Buffalo’s top pairing for most of the year, registering 23 goals and 36 assists.
Buffalo has had some rough times on the penalty kill over the last couple years, as the team has been forced to resort to a high percentage of powerplay goals.
It has been more effective this season with Carter playing a large role in that area.
Carter has also been a reliable member of the Buffalo powerplay.
He was a second-team All-Star in 2017-18 and the team’s leading scorer in 2018-19 with 18 goals and 31 assists.
O’Rielly is expected be back with the team this season as well.
The 22-year old forward has had an up-and-down season in Buffalo over the past two years, scoring just 12 goals and 22 assists in 60 games.
He had a goal and an assist in Buffalo’s 6-3 win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Jan., 5.
O’Rievll has three goals and three assists in three games.
Carter and O’Reilly are expected to be a key piece of Buffalo’s depth in the bottom-six.
Buffalo currently has five defenseman on the roster, but they could be looking to add more depth to the blueline, as O’ Reilly and OJ Pekka Rinne both have limited playing time.
Carter and O Reilly would add a big piece to the Sabres depth chart.