Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com
The Buffalo Sabres are in Calgary tonight looking to salvage what they can from their first of two West Coast road trips. Buffalo was downed by the Edmonton Oilers 4-2 on Sunday then fell to the Vancouver Canucks by a 5-2 score the following night. After two days off, including a mandated, they finish this swing against a percolating Calgary Flames team.
Calgary is in the midst of a five game homestand which saw them win the first three games.
They're also looking for their eighth win in a row at home and are 8-5-0 overall at the Saddledome this season. They haven't lost at home since the red hot Montreal Canadiens visited Calgary on October 30.
Buffalo come into tonight's matchup having dropped two in a row leaving them under .500 on the road so far this season (5-6-2.) It's been a tough few weeks for Buffalo schedule-wise as they've played some Western Conference powers and came out on the losing end. In their last 10 games they're 3-5-2.)
Outside of a four-game stretch which saw them four or more goals consecutively for the first time since 2007, the Sabres have had a tough time scoring and head coach Dan Bylsma is going to do some line juggling to try and get the ream going. Although Bylsma told the media gathered at the Saddledome today that the lines will be a game-time decision, but he said yesterday he is leaning towards reuniting rookie Jack Eichel with fellow speed demon Evander Kane.
The Eichel/Kane duo made an appearance in Vancouver and it would seem as if they're headed for more ice-time together tonight. "I think we'll see that," he said yesterday. "I didn't like where we were at the last couple of games (at Edmonton and Vancouver.) They had some success earlier in the season playing together. There wasn't a lot of finish in that success, but they had opportunities.
"Two guys who have a ton of speed could be good together an play off of each other."
One forward who has had success and who's line has been finishing is Jamie McGinn. "Big 88" is currently on a career-best six-game point streak (2g, 5a) and Bylsma said that he's earned his spot in the top six. When he was asked that same day whether he was rewarding McGinn by placing him on the Ryan O'Reilly/Sam Reinhart line, Bylsma said, "I have to."
Bylsma continued, "When moved to that line, he had success on that line. He had success earlier with [Eichel] as well. I thought that [O'Reilly/Reinhart/McGinn] line played well in the last period in Vancouver."
McGinn's 13 points are fourth on the team yet he's 19th on the team with an ATOI of 10:52. Sabres PR points out that he leads all NHL players (min. 3 GP) in points per 60 minutes played.
WGR's Paul Hamilton had the defensive parings at practice this afternoon as Rasmus Ristolainen/Josh Gorges; Mike Weber/Cody Franson; Carlo Colaiacovo/Zach Bogosian with rookie Jake McCabe "working in with the last pair."
McCabe has been struggling and Bylsma talked about that yesterday as well. "He needed a break, take a step back" said Bylsma. "I think it was important for him to watch last game from the pressbox and I think that it will be important for him to get back in and get back to the game he can play for us."
Bylsma told the media today that Chad Johnson will be in net. The Calgary Alberta native will be playing his first NHL game in his hometown.
Jason LaBarber of sabres.com made a note that the Sabres powerplay, which has been in a bit of a slump will have two defensemen at the point for the first time this season as Franson and Bogosian will manning the blueline. Said Bylsma via the LaBarber piece, “One thing we have been in need of is a person to bring the puck up the ice with speed,” Bylsma said. “Zach will be able to add that almost definitely from there. He’s on a group with Cody Franson. Now you have two guys, two right shots on that power-play position that can really bring it to the net with a heavy shot.”
Finally, plans are in the works to be in Detroit for the Sabres December 14th matchup with the Wings. If any Sabres fans are planning to attend, let me know, would love ta meet ya.
And, for those of you familiar with Detroit, I'll be looking to hit a great place to eat as well as a tourist spot or two, time permitting. If you want to forward some of your favorite spots, it would be greatly appreciated.