Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Larsson and Schaller net first career goals. Plus, the Bartkowski cheapshot

Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com

Kudos to Sabres forwards Johan Larsson and Tim Schaller, both of whom scored their first NHL goals over the weekend.

Larsson's goal came against the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday night as he drove to the net to bury the puck as it slid across the crease:

(Thx, Sabres Hockey Central)

The goal came in his fifth game this season, 34th of his career.

Larsson was a 2nd round pick (56th overall) of the Minnesota Wild in 2010. He came to Buffalo as a part of the Jason Pominville trade on April 3, 2013.

In 146 AHL games (which includes 62 with the Houston Aeros,) the 5'11" 206 lb. Larsson scored 39 goals, had 66 assists and was a collective plus-7.

Schaller was another Sabres to break through with his first NHL goal as he swung behind the net to force a wrap-around past Boston Bruins goalie, Tuuka Rask.

(Thx, Sabres Hockey Central)

The Merrimack, NH native was able to net his first goal in only his third game and he did it with his proud parents in the audience. It happened so fast that he said he wasn't sure how to react, “I didn’t even know how to celebrate,” Schaller said. “I threw my hands up. Everyone came to give me a hug so I guess that’s all I needed.”

When looking at Larsson and Schaller, we're probably looking at two good, solid players who could be seeing regular time in Buffalo next season, possibly sooner.

Larsson is a pest to play against and will aggravate an opponent to no end. Rochester Amerks long-time broadcaster Don Stevens said of Larsson's game, "First of all, [Larsson] doesn't quit," said Stevens. "He just goes, goes, goes until somebody has to try and stop him somehow.

"It's like he turns the other team to focusing upon him because he's a non-stop kind of player."

Kevin Oklobzija of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle elaborated a bit, " "[Larsson] works and just hounds the puck," said Oklobzija. "I don't think he'll be a big scorer in Buffalo, but he's a third-line guy who can play that checking role, kill penalties and do a lot of things that aren't glamorous, but a team needs."

Schaller brings a lunch-bucket mentality to the ice, but is anything but a plugger. This is his second pro season and his eight goals in 26 Amerks games are only three fewer than when he scored 11 in 72 games last season. His eight goals are tied for the team lead with Larsson and the departed Luke Adam. Presently he's fifth on the team in points with 18.

With his workman-like effort and good pair of hands, Schaller could project out as a defensive-minded, top-nine forward who contribute regularly. He's a character player as well, something that the organization has focused upon while laying the foundation of this rebuild. (For more, click here to see my interview with Schaller.)

One final note.

Boston's Matt Bartkowski sent Sabres' captain Brian Gionta whirlin' last night with a shoulder hit to an unsuspecting head.

(Thx, Eric Burton)

It's a suspendable hit, the type the league has been trying to eliminate. Even if the Bruins d-man is a first time offender there's no reason why he shouldn't have a hearing and get one game. "The head hits are dangerous hits so we’ll let the League look at that and make the correct call,” Sabres head coach Ted Nolan said.

But, then again, it's the Jeremy Jacobs owned Bruins. Nobody in Buffalo believes the league will "make the correct call" when it comes to a team like Boston who's owner sits atop the NHL power structure.

Nothing of significance will happen.

And Kudos to Marcus Foligno for showing genuine anger and barreling in to lay some knuckles on Bartkowski. Too bad many found the helmet. "“It’s one of those freak accidents that happen when you fight,” Nolan said. “You’re throwing punches at helmets and what have you, so your hands are out there. We’re going to lose him for awhile.”

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