Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Sabres host Florida tonight as the roster begins to take shape

Reprinted with permission from

When the Buffalo Sabres opened the regular season on October 9th, they had five players injured--G, Matt Hackett; F, Patrick Kaleta; F, Johan Larsson; D, Mark Pysyk; D, Jake McCabe.

Hackett is still recovering from a knee injury after a nasty collision took him out last season while Kaleta is back on the ice in a non-contact uniform.

Kaleta was hit in the face by a puck that, according to the winger, “Broke a bunch of things in there." He went on to say that behind his full face shield are three plates and 14 screws which are now a part of him. And although he still has blood in his eye from the slapshot, “I went through all the tests with my eyeball," he said, "and I’m blessed and lucky my eyesight is good, knock on wood, so far. Everything else was pretty much crushed, I guess." Save for his spirit.

He's back on the ice skating with the team after being out only three weeks and he's itchin' to get back out there. “I’m probably going to let the plates and the screws settle a little bit. Other than that, once I get the green light, I’m ready to go whether my face is broken or not.”

Larsson went on IR October 7th with a concussion he missed one regular season game for the Sabres before getting the green light and being re-assigned to Rochester. He played last in the team's opening weekend registering a goal and four points in those two back-to-back games.

Yesterday there was more good news on the injury front as the Sabres got both Pysyk and McCabe back. After skating with the team they were both sent to Rochester. Pysyk had been recovering from an upper body injury suffered in a September 23 game against Carolina while McCabe was returning from an injury that was said to have been lingering since the Traverse City Tournament. After the last preseason game the team decided to place him on IR so that he would have the opportunity fully recover.

Pysyk, it would seem, is down in Rochester more or less for on a conditioning assignment. He played for only 56 seconds in the opening game before the injury. They know, and have known what they have in Pysyk, “We’re never concerned with Mark’s ability to play in this league,” Nolan said. “Now, we just got to get him some games and hopefully get him back here quick.”

None of Larsson, Pysyk or McCabe needed to clear waivers to be sent to Rochester.

That group of injuries and the ability to send those three down without waivers gave the Sabres some time to get a good look at Sam Reinhart before they need to make a decision on him. It also allowed them to carry defenseman Nikita Zadorov on the team while they decide what to do with him. Reinhart has played in all four games so far this season while Zadorov has not played at all.

The Sabres are in a bit of a pickle with the hulking defenseman as the 19 yr. old can't be sent to Rochester because of the CHL/NHL agreement. It's either the big club or back to his junior club, the London Knights.

Jon Vogl of the Buffalo News wrote last night that the team is taking as much time as they can to figure out the best course of action.

The 6'5" 238 lb. Zadorov has pretty much outgrown the Canadian Hockey League but is still too raw for the NHL. It's the exact same predicament the team was in last season with fellow Russian, Mikhail Grigorenko.

Vogl brings up another possibility, the KHL, but also stresses that the team is hesitant to do that as the possibility of losing him to "The Motherland" is omnipresent.

Zadorov needs to play but remains in a state of limbo and it doesn't seem as if the team is 100% sure what to do with him. “I can’t answer that question straight up," said Sabres bench boss Ted Nolan, "but we’re trying to do our best with the situation. We’re going to keep working at him, get his conditioning a little better. He’s another promising young prospect that we have to make sure we do the best for him.”

The "conditioning" aspect of the equation is most important in Zadorov's case and it's probably the best and only thing they can do for him at this point. Last season he showed fatigue through the mid-latter stages of a game. Part of it had to do with him playing anywhere from 25-30 minutes a game, but another, more telling aspect was that he wasn't in top physical shape. Working him out on a daily basis is great for the kid, but won't last forever.

Perhaps Zadorov should just plan on playing the rest of the season in London. I was told that the Knights are ready and willing to get him back. They've started out the season slow with a 3-5 record while giving up 29 goals against and would relish Zadorov anchoring their defense.

But, it's out of their hands. The decision will come from GM Tim Murray, his staff and coaches. They probably should have done both Reinhart and Zadorov favors by getting them back to junior after training camp. Dragging it out just makes it worse.


Nolan will be icing the same lineup tonight vs. Florida as he did at Carolina the other night save for one move as defenseman Andrej Meszaros is out of the doghouse and back on the ice. Tyson Strachan will take a seat after playing in his only game of the season.

Meszaros is a team worst minus-6, but what was worse was his unwillingness to put forth a solid effort at home in a 5-1 shellacking compliments of the Anaheim Ducks. Many were guilty, but Meszaros just hasn't been getting it done and looks like he's already cashed it in on the season.

The Sabres are 1-3 heading into tonight's game. Their only victory is a 4-3 SO win versus winless Carolina. It was the first time all season that the Sabres outshot an opponent (26-25,) despite being outshot 11-2 in the third period. It's also the first time all season they held the opposition to under 40 shots on goal.

Heading into tonight's game vs. the Cats, the Sabres have been outscored 17-7. The third period has been exceptionally humiliating as opponents have outscored them 11-2. Only four players who have played in at least three of the four games thus far have a even or better plus/minus:  Zemgus Girgensons and Marcus Foligno are plus-1 while Josh Gorges and Tyler Myers both are even.

Florida has yet to get untracked offensively while goalie Roberto Luongo is off to a horrendous start. The Panthers are 0-2-1 and have scored three goals (Jonathan Huberdeau, Derek McKenzie, Erik Gudbranson) while giving up nine. Luongo is 0-2-1 with an uncharacteristic 3.78 goals against average and a .870 save percentage.

Buffalo assistant coach Bryan Trottier has been in charge of the powerplay (among other things,) but in 10 opportunities they've yet to find the back of the net. Tonight just might be the night for a breakthrough as the Panthers have given up six goals on 17 kills. At 65% it puts them 28th in the league. Trottier moved Cody Hodgson to the point on the 1st pp unit.

Tonight's projected lineup for Buffalo:

Moulson, Ennis, Stafford
Foligno, Hodgson, Stewart
Mitchell, Girgensons, Gionta
Deslauriers, Reinhart, McCormick

Gorges, Myers
Weber, Meszaros
Benoit, Ristolainen



Finally, Reinhart remains on the fourth line after starting the year in the top-six. It's a curious move that seems to foreshadow an eventual move back to his Kootenay Ice junior team.

The kid's taking it all in stride, “There’s no question I’m used to playing a lot more and getting a lot more opportunities. I was aware that if I were to still be here at this point that it would have to be an adjustment. I’m trying to go through that now,” Reinhart said. “I think last game, obviously it was important to get the win, but I think I handled it well and was able to observe a little bit more.

“When it was my time to get out there, I was ready to battle and compete. I think that was the biggest thing for me to watch and learn. If I get out anymore tonight, I’ll be ready for that.”

Nolan had stated yesterday that moving Reinhart to the fourth line was "taking a different approach." Nolan said that they were "letting him watch game action more so than throwing him right into the fire," while touting the positives of the approach, "I thought last game he was almost chomping on the bit to get out there more versus playing more and the game being a little bit too fast," he said.

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