Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com
With the way the Buffalo Sabres were dominated by the Carolina Hurricanes last night over the first 20 minutes, they could very easily be headed into tonight's game with their winless streak intact.
The 'Canes used a relentless forecheck and furious cycle to outshoot Buffalo 11-3 in the first period, but ended up down 1-0 on a goal by Josh Gorges. Gorges, according to Sabres PR, registered his first goal as a Sabre and his first one in 130 games dating back to October 12, 2013. The seeing-eye floater that skipped past Hurricanes' goalie Cam Ward was originally credited to Buffalo forward David Legwand but Gorges would end up getting the marker.
Early in the second period Carolina's pressure paid off a Sabres captain Brian Gionta gave away the puck deep in the zone where the 'Canes Victor Rask punched it home. Trouble followed the Sabres later as defenseman Zach Bogosian was called for a weak interference penalty just past the half-way point of the period, but they killed it off. And just eight seconds after the kill, Buffalo's Jack Eichel jumped on a loose puck in the neutral zone and ripped a wicked wrister past Carolina's Cam Ward.
Eichel might be the first player I've seen thus far who has mastered the composite hockey stick. It takes a touch to bend it just to the point of breaking before release and it's something Eichel does impeccably as he gets incredible velocity from his wrister. It's a shot that comes from his strong 6'1" 201 lb. frame, maximized by his touch while being accurate and deceptive. Nearly every time he rockets one to the net the goalie is forced to react quickly and you hear the announcer say something to the effect that "He had to fight that one off."
It was Eichel's second goal in two games, and his eighth of the year which put him atop the team leaderboard in that department.
All's not completely well at this point for the 19 yr. old Eichel as he and his line were on the wrong end of Carolina's intense forecheck for much of the game and he has the second-worst plus/minus on the team at minus-7 (Tyler Ennis, -9.) That said, who really cares in Buffalo right now. Every time he has the puck on his stick there's a rush that goes through the stands.
One final note on last night, good for David Legwand. He was originally credited with the Gorges goal but coming out of the second period the goal was switched. As the Carolina color commentator mentioned, oft-times in a situation where it wasn't 100% clear who scored the goal, the veteran will give word that it wasn't his.
He was rewarded later as he scored himself.
The Sabres are in the Music City tonight ready to finish of their two-game season series with the Nashville Predators.
This past Wednesday Buffalo dropped a 3-2 decision as a third period comeback fell just short.
Eichel had a goal as did Evander Kane who scored for the first time in six games dating back to October 21. Kane missed 10 games due to injury.
From Sabres PR: This is the third set of back-to-backs for Buffalo. With the win last night they're now 1-2-0 in the first game and head into tonight 1-1-0. The Sabres have struggled lately against the Preds and are on a five game winless streak vs. Nashville (0-4-1.) Buffalo is 3-7-0 in their last 10 against Nashville but, surprisingly, 6-4-0 on the road.
No word on the lines or pairings last night but things probably change much up-front.
The Eichel, Gionta, Matt Moulson line came away with two goals and an assist last night while the fourth line of Legwand, Tim Schaller and Jamie McGinn combined for one goal and three assists.
Sabres bench boss Dan Bylsma pointed out that the third line of Zemgus Girgensons, Marcus Foligno and Nic Deslauriers was strong noting that even though they didn't hit the scoresheet, he thought it was their best line. Ryan O'Reilly, Kane and Sam Reinhart constituted the first line. They were held scoreless as well.
Defenseman Zach Bogosian had a trying game last night and maybe it was due to him having a new d-partner. Or maybe being away from his previous d-partner. Bogosian had been paired with rookie Jake McCabe almost exclusively since he began his season, but last night he had Carlo Colaiacovo on his left. What Bylsma does with that pairing remains to be seen but we can pretty much figure that Rasmus Ristolainen will continue to be paired with Josh Gorges on the top pairing.
Ristolainen had another assist last night and now has 14 points on the season (4+10) and is on pace for 50 points on the season. Should he hit that mark he'll be the first Sabres d-man to do so since Gary Galley in 1995-96 and will be the youngest since recent Hall of Fame inductee Phil Housley did so, according to Sabres PR.
Although there's no official word, wouldn't be surprised to see rookie Linus Ullmark in net tonight.