Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com
One thing that a team really doesn't want when they're playing really well is time off and unfortunately for the Buffalo Sabres, that's just what they've had through the early part of the week. Buffalo hasn't played since a 2-1 win in Brooklyn, NY over the Islanders on Sunday. The third-period comeback victory in regulation capped off a strong week for the team as they went 3-1 with their only loss on the road in Pittsburgh, a 4-3 game where they outplayed the Penguins but came up just short.
On the positive side, this reprieve means that players get themselves in a maintenance day before or get some added time to recover from an injury. After a team day off on Monday forwards Jamie McGinn and Tyler Ennis were absent from Tuesday's practice. McGinn was attending to some bumps and bruises while Ennis was given an extra day to nurse a lower body injury that kept him out of two games last week.
Another positive is that the three-day break allowed for the team to work on some things. Head coach Dan Bylsma told reporters after practice that Tuesday was a "work day." Jourdon LeBarber of sabres.com described it this way, "In the vernacular of coach Bylsma, it’s an opportunity to establish a pace and a level of intensity in practice that the grueling schedule of the regular season often doesn’t allow."
Pace has been huge for Bylsma ever since he took the reigns of the club and their up-tempo style of play has been really noticeable early in the season. The Sabres are skating hard and fast covering the entire ice surface and controlling the puck a good portion of the time and Bylsma wants to keep it that way, hopefully on a more consistent basis.
Consistency in his line combinations may also help as Bylsma has kept the Brian Gionta, Matt Moulson, Zemgus Girgensons line intact for a few games while he also may have found another in the David Legwand, McGinn, Sam Reinhart line. Both lines have played extremely well with Girgensons feeding Moulson for the game-tying goal and Reinhart scoring the game-winner vs. the Isles on Sunday.
If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
The other lines as posted by the Sabres were Ryan O'Reilly on the top line flanked by Nic Deslauriers and Tyler Ennis while Jack Eichel centered a line with Johan Larsson and Marcus Foligno. The Sabres also said that defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo was not out for pregame and it's expected that Mike Weber will take his place on the third-pairing with Mark Pysyk.
Goalie Linus Ullmark, who's sporting a 2-0 record, a 1.00 goals against average and a .966 save percentage in his last two starts, will get the not in net.
Tonight's game vs. the Tampa Bay Lightning will be the third of four meetings between the two clubs this season with the fourth coming on Tuesday meaning the season series will conclude only 15 games into the season for Buffalo.
The high-powered Lightning, a team who lead the league in goals last season en route to a birth in the Stanley Cup Finals, has been struggling lately. They've scored seven goals in their last six games which has put them in a 1-4-1 rut. Tampa Bay will be facing a Sabres squad that they've beaten twice already by scores of 4-1 (October 10th) and 2-1 (October 17th) with the latter one being a reference point on the new style of play for Buffalo.
The Sabres jumped on the Lightning in the first period pumping 16 shots on Tampa goalie Ben Bishop including Reinhart's first career goal at 2:52 of the first to give Buffalo the 1-0 lead. But the Lightning clawed back and won it on a powerplay goal late in the third period. “That was a game where I think we felt like we played the way we wanted to and needed to play. It really stung, giving up a power-play goal in the last five minutes of the game to make it a 2-1 game,” said Bylsma to the media post practice yesterday. “We’ve talked about that game quite a bit, especially that first period … that’s how the Buffalo Sabres are trying to play every game.”
It's a style of play that's really starting to take shape which is a bonus for the team as well as the fans, many of whom couldn't wait for tonight.