Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com
The Buffalo Sabres are 1-1 in the preseason thus far after last night's 5-2 loss at the hands of the Ottawa Senators. Although Buffalo dominated in the shot department with 42 shots on goal compared to Ottawa's 26, they had trouble finding the back of the net. Senators goalie Matt O'Connor, a former teammate of Jack Eichel with the Boston University Terriers last season, was particularly stout in net for Ottawa as he stopped all 18 shots he faced including five on an early power play for the Sabres. The 6'6" netminder outdueled his counterpart across the ice as Buffalo goalie, and former Senator, Robin Lehner stopped only 16 of the 19 shots he faced (.843 save %.)
The Sabres were done-in by three Ottawa goals in 3:26 span during the second period. The line of Jason Akeson, David Legwand and Evan Rodrigues, along with 18 yr. old defenseman Brendan Guhle, were victimized for two of the three goals.
The projected top line for the Sabres--Evander Kane, Ryan O'Reilly, Tyler Ennis--were on the ice for the other of those three quick goals but it was their only real blemish on the night. The trio looked as if they'd been playing together for years as they're differing styles complimented each other nicely. Ennis looked in mid-season form with shifty moves and a go-go attitude while O'Reilly, although lacking overdrive this early in year, still was a presence on the ice and looked much larger than his 6'0" 210 lb. frame.
But star of the line, and of the night (as in first star of the game,) was Kane.
Kane, who hadn't played in a game since February 2nd while with Winnipeg, played the style he was known for. He lead all forwards in ice-time with 22:38 (second only to Carlo Colaiacovo's 23:51,) lead the team in hits with six, and scored the only two Buffalo goals--both on special teams.
Early in the third he scored short-handed goal that pulled the Sabres to within 3-1 and later he scored on the powerplay to make it 4-2 late in the period. Although he was happy to be able to pot a couple, saying that it was something that "gets you feeling good and gets the ball rolling a little bit,” Kane tried to keep the team's overall performance in perspective. "We're gonna make mistakes, we're gonna turn some pucks over, especially in the first game for pretty much all of us," he said. "Like I said, it's an exhibition game and you're not going to be as sharp as you want to be."
The Sabres will head up the QEW to take on the rival Maple Leafs in Toronto on Friday.
The Sabres have scored two shorthanded goals in two consecutive exhibition games thus far. In addition to Kane's shortie last night, Eichel scored the game-winner with the team down a man in Tuesday's tilt at Minnesota.
Both Kane and Eichel are two highly-skilled players who will eventually be two-thirds of the Sabres top-line and having that kind of skill on the penalty kill wasn't at the forefront of head coach Dan Bylsma's overall coaching philosophy. Said the coach on Eichel and his shortie in Minnesota, "It's probably something I would want to do normally, but I think those were the guys who were going to get it done," he said. "I was thinking at the time that I was tiring out my skill players, but they came up big with the kill there."
Perhaps he should be looking at skill on the PK as an offensive weapon in some way shape or form during the regular season.
Of note, forward Zemgus Girgensons had three shorthanded goals in 61 games for the Sabres last year before he was shelved due to injury. That goal total was tied for 5th in the league, two behind league-leader Tyler Toffoli of the LA Kings (76 games.)
Add in O'Reilly and that's four top-six, two-way players who could be a bona fide threat on the penalty kill.
The thinning of the herd, so to speak, began in Buffalo yesterday as four players were sent to their junior clubs:
--RW, Vaclav Karabacek (2014, 49th overall) was sent to Baie-Comeau (QMJHL.) His stat-line vs. Minnesota, 8:48 ice time, zero points.
--D, Brycen Martin (2014, 74th) sent to Saskatoon (WHL.)
--D, Devante Stevens (2015, 122nd) sent to Kelowna (WHL.)
--C, Giorgio Estephan (2015, 152nd) sent to Lethbridge (WHL.)
As of right now Buffalo has 56 players still in camp--32 forwards, 17 defensemen and seven goaltenders.
There will be heightened security measures at First Niagara Center with the addition of walk-through metal detectors which will be in place at all entrances as part of a league-wide initiative to increase security at events.
Unlike airport security, fans will be able to keep keys, coins, wallets, jackets, belts, shoes, watches and jewelry on them whilst walking through.
(Thanks Jon Vogl for the heads up on this.)
The NHL's 3-on-3 overtime trial continued last night for Buffalo, but fans never really got a good taste as Ottawa ended it less than a minute into the extra session.
The prior game in Minnesota ended with less than :10 seconds left in the overtime frame.