Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com
The Buffalo Sabres open up a highly anticipated 2015-16 season against a team that's been a thorn in the side for the better part of the decade. The Ottawa Senators have had their way with Buffalo dating back to the 2007 playoffs when they bounced the Sabres in five games of the eastern conference finals. Buffalo fans are well aware of what's transpired since then and are eagerly awaiting tonight's contest to begin a new era.
But before we get to the lineup for this season, just one more reminder of where they were last year when they opened up the 2014-15 season at home vs. the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Buffalo Sabres opening night lineup on October 9, 2014 before 18,215 in attendance:
Matt Moulson, Tyler Ennis, Drew Stafford
Marcus Foligno, Zemgus Girgensons, Chris Stewart
Cody Hodgson, Sam Reinhart, Brian Gionta
Cody McCormick, Torrey Mitchell, Nic Deslauriers
Josh Gorges, Tyler Myers
Andrej Meszaros, Andre Benoit
Mike Weber, Rasmus Ristolainen
Scratches: Brian Flynn, Tyson Strachan, Nikita Zadorov
Back-up goalie: Michal Neuvirth
Of the group listed above only nine players are on this year's roster with seven suiting up as both Gionta and McCormick are out with injuries.
Based upon this morning's skate, heres the probable lineup for tonight's matchup vs. the Ottawa Senators :
Matt Moulson, Ryan O'Reilly, Tyler Ennis
Evander Kane, Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart
Zemgus Girgensons, Johan Larsson, Marcus Foligno
Nic Deslauriers, David Legwand, Jamie McGinn
Carlo Colaiacovo, Rasmus Ristolainen
Mike Weber, Cody Franson
Josh Gorges, Mark Pysyk
Scratches: Matt Donovan, Jake McCabe
Back-up goalie: Chad Johnson
On injured reserve: Brian Gionta, Zach Bogosian, Cody McCormick, Bobby Sanguinetti, Linus Ullmark and Brendan Guhle
The Sabres will have eight fresh faces in the lineup tonight--Colaiacovo, Eichel, Franson, Kane, Legwand, Lehner, McGinn and O'Reilly. The last time they had that many was in 1986-87 when six made their Sabres debut in the team’s season-opener (Christian Ruuttu, Clark Gillies, Jim Korn, Ken Priestlay, Scott Arniel, Shawn Anderson and Wilf Paiement.)
Some quick notes with this lineup:
--Reinhart played in nine games last season garnering one assists and was sent back to junior for the remainder of last season. He gets a prime spot on a line with Kane and Eichel. He'll need to use every ounce of his "off-the-charts" hockey sense to get into the play with speed-demons Kane and Eichel.
--Moulson and Ennis start where they did last season--on the top line--only last year it was Ennis playing center at the beginning of the season. They combined for zero points and a minus-2 rating last year.
--Girgensons finds himself at left wing after playing on the right side in the preseason and playing center last year. He played on Larsson's left for Rochester during the 2013 AHL playoffs when he scored three goals in three games. Larsson had assists on all three of them.
--"The one who eats lions" also likes to get off to good starts. Girgensons has scored the Sabres first goal of the season in his first, and only, two years thus far. He's the only Sabre in franchise history to do that. With a goal tonight, Girgensons would join Dave Andreychuk and Gilbert Perreault as the only players in history to score on opening night three consecutive seasons.
--The defense is balanced with three lefties (Colaiacovo, Weber and Gorges) and three righties (Ristolainen, Franson and Pysyk.)
--The Sabres have had an 18-year-old in the opening day lineup each of the last three years (2014-15: Sam Reinhart; 2013-14: Rasmus Ristolainen; 2012-13: Mikhail Grigorenko) and Jack Eichel will be the fifth 18-year old to dress on opening night. At 18 yrs. 346 days old he's the "oldest" of eight, 18-yr. olds to dress for the Sabres. The youngest was Pierre Turgeon (1987, 1st overall) who was 18 yr. and 41 days old.
Tonight will be the debut for the coaching staff as well. Head coach Dan Bylsma will have Terry Murray, Dave Barr, Dan Lambert, and Andrew Allen as his assistants.
Buffalo Bills head coach Rex Ryan was well known as a Toronto Maple Leafs fans as a youth. And it's also well known that Eichel grew up a Boston Bruins fan.
Ryan was decked out in a Sabres jersey while Eichel will ditch his preseason No. 41 in favor of his permanent No. 15.