Monday, October 6, 2014

A tough Friday night for Buffalo and Rochester

Reprinted with permission from

The sentence reads:

A slow start and poor special teams play plagued the __________  __________ in their _________ Hockey League preseason _________ on Friday night.

To which team does that headline belong to? The Buffalo Sabres or Rochester Americans?

For those who listened to or watched the Sabres last night in Carolina, a slow start that lasted through the first two periods put the Sabres in a hole from which they would not recover en route to a 5-1 drubbing at the hands of the Carolina Hurricanes. The 'Canes built a 4-0 lead before the Sabres scored their only goal with less than five minutes to go in the second period.

Some stout goaltending by Carolina goalie Cam Ward kept the Sabres off the board in the first period. He robbed Zemgus Girgensons after a sweet, knee-sliding, no-look backhand feed from defenseman Nikita Zadorov. Ward kicked out his pad and barely got his left toe on the shot headed far-side.

He also kicked out his left pad to rob former Hurricane, Zac Dalpe, on a point blank shot while the Sabres were on their second powerplay of the period.

Earlier in the opening stanza, the Sabres had a golden opportunity just 3:28 into the game as Carolina's Chad LaRose was sent packing on a boarding call. But the Sabres could only muster two shots on goal during that five minute man advantage. Although Buffalo would finish the evening 1-3 on the powerplay--compliments of another nifty toe-drag goal by Jake McCabe--those lost opportunities in the first period would get the best of them.

It's preseason, and one could make the argument that the Sabres didn't practice special teams all that much during training camp. Which is true. But the slow start and powerplay failures were indicative of something else according to head coach Ted Nolan.

"It was nothing to do with systems or tactical plays," Nolan said post-game. "We didn't compete. We didn't work and we didn't battle.

"We got beat to a lot of pucks in the first couple of periods. We had no fight and no compete-level."

One quick note on the hit from behind by LaRose on Sabres d-man Josh Gorges. There was no physical response from the players on the ice, something that Nolan found "frustrating."

"We have a few guys on our team that are physical," he said. "Should they have picked it up? Certainly. If a team gets physical against you, you want to respond some way. And we didn't respond.

"That was probably the most frustrating part to look at."

The Sabres open up the regular season with a home game versus the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday. The roster must be trimmed to 23 by Tuesday.

Although the headline at the top defined Buffalo's night, it actually belonged to the Rochester Americans who dropped a 5-4 decision to the Toronto Marlies on the road.

"We got off to a little bit of a slow start and they really dominated us in the first half of the first period," Rochester coach Chadd Cassidy said. "I thought we really started playing well in the second period. We played really well 5-on-5, but we got into some penalty trouble late in the second."

Toronto opened the scoring on the powerplay and made it 2-0 after one period but the Amerks would get back into the game at 4:35 of the second period. Dan Catenacci deflected one home off of a shot from Tim Schaller.

The Amerks would tie it on their own powerplay goal by Akim Aliu. A former 2nd round pick of the Chicago Blackhawks in 2007, Aliu is a hulking 6'4" 225 lb. powerforward who's been bouncing around during his five-year, 269-game pro career. He was a Rochester training camp invite and may have landed himself a spot on the team by potting two goals last night.

But the "penalty trouble" Cassidy was alluding to was a 5-on-3 that Toronto scored on late in the second period as the Marlies regained the lead. And with 1.3 seconds left in the period, Eric Knodel would make it 4-2.

Early in the third Toronto made it 5-2 before Jordan Samuels-Thomas and Ailu's second would give us the 5-4 final score.

In addition to Ailu, Cassidy liked the play of Samuels-Thomas and William Carrier up-front as well as Nick Petrecki, Jerome Leduc and Brady Austin on the back-end.

Andrey Makarov was in net for the Amerks last night so tonight it's Nathan Lieuwen's turn. It's the second and final preseason game for Rochester. They open the season one week from today with a game versus the Adirondack Flames (CGY.)

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