Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com
The Rochester Americans are hosting the St. Johns Sea Dogs (MTL) tonight at First Niagara Center and two local players will be hitting the ice.
For the first time ever in a pro game situation, Justin Bailey, son of former Buffalo Bills linebacker Carlton Bailey will make his debut in downtown Buffalo for the Amerks. The former 2013 second-round pick (52nd-overall) has 10 points (3+7) in 30 games for Rochester this season, but the big (6'4", 206 lb.) powerforward has been making real solid progress in his first pro season.
While on Sabres Hockey Hotline this morning he told co-host Andrew Peters that he was tentative early on in his rookie season but in the last 10 games or so he said his game has "changed a lot" and that he's been able to play his game. "I think the way I've been playing," said Bailey on the Hotline, "is the way I want to play. For me, when I'm skating and using my speed that's when I'm playing my best hockey."
That was something that wasn't lost on long-time Amerks broadcaster, Don Stevens. "For a guy his size," said Stevens, "he's got outstanding speed. Now he's going hard to the net and he's getting in front and mixing it up. He's a big boy, that's the way he's got to play, and now he's figuring out how to play that way."
Also skating on the First Niagara Ice tonight is old friend Patrick Kaleta.
Kaleta has been recovering from an injury he suffered while with the Sabres in preseason and has been eased back into the lineup by Rochester head coach Randy Cunneyworth.
There's an interesting plot twist to Kaleta and his contract with the Sabres organization that was mentioned by him and Peters today on the Hotline. According to Kaleta he'll be open to offers from other NHL clubs, "I believe, as of January 1st or 2nd, I could be offer (sheeted) by another NHL team but I believe the Sabres have a chance to match that."
Kaleta said he had mixed emotions about playing at F'N Center tonight, as tonight could be his last game skating for the home team there. "I could give you a company line and say, 'yeah, I'm really excited' and all that kind of stuff," he told the hosts, "but to be honest with you it's been mixed emotions for me especially...I don't want my last game, potentially, at First Niagara Center to be in an Amerks jersey, I'd prefer it be in the blue and gold, especially [having played] for a team I've broken half my body and given a decent part of my life to."
The 29 yr. old veteran who played parts of nine NHL seasons for Buffalo has in fact, poured his heart out for this franchise, but he's also done some dumb things that have gotten him in hot water with the league. His antics had him banished to the AHL by former GM Darcy Regier and he's been trying to adapt his game.
Personally, I wouldn't want to face Kaleta as an opponent. Everyone takes notice when he's on the ice and he's never been afraid to drop 'em for the team.
Has he done enough in Rochester to get another shot with Buffalo? Come January 2, 2016, we'll find out.
It would seem as if the Sabres could use Kaleta's mitts tonight when the Sabres take on the Washington Capitals at the Verizon Center in DC.
This will be the second meeting in three nights between the Sabres and the Caps and the last one, a 2-0 win for Washington left a bad taste in their mouths.
It all stemmed from a perfectly legal hit by the Sabres Nic Deslauriers on Caps forward Justin Williams. Deslauriers shrugged off contact between the two by leveling Williams as if he was an old coat that needed to be discarded. Unfortunately Deslauriers stick caught Williams in the face and he went to the locker room for some medical attention. He did return to the game.
A bit later Washington's Michael Latta, who's not known for his pugilism, manned up and went after Deslauriers. Latta was game but it was no match and when Deslauriers went to the box he pumped his arms repeatedly to the applause of the hometown audience. The Caps didn't take kindly to that as not only did a scorer like Williams go down, but Latta left the game with an arm injury and they felt Deslauriers wasn't very civil in his post-fight celebration.
While in the box, the Caps designated rough-guy Tom Wilson gleaned at Deslauriers in the box and threw some words his way in the process. Nothing followed as the Caps would tap into "good karma" as described by head coach Barry Trotz, and score their second goal of the game.
Irony of ironies, Latta is out tonight and he's being replaced by Zach Sill, who was recalled from the Hershey Bears yesterday. The 27 yr. old has four points (1+3) in 83 career NHL games and has registered 96 penalty minutes. According to hockeyfights.com Sill had nine fights in 63 games last year for Pittsburgh and Toronto and he's had two for Hershey in the AHL this season.
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out this one.
Hopefully they get it on early, and they should as Washington has the last change. But, it will be interesting to see what happens afterwards. I have a feeling that the Sabres aren't' too pleased with Alexander Ovechkin's boarding of Josh Gorges in the last game. Although no penalty was called it was a dangerous hit and one player for sure, rookie Jake McCabe didn't take to kindly to it.
Am starting to think that this might be the beginning of a good rivalry.
According to WGR's Paul Hamilton, forwards Zemgus Girgensons has replace Matt Moulson on the powerplay. Moulson's been ice cold for a while now but head coach Dan Bylsma has kept him on the PP while trying to get him going. It hasn't worked, and because of it, a player like Girgensons who had 15 goals in 61 games last season has been a victim of that.
Girgensons has always been known to be the type of player who'll do anything for the team, has been playing in a shutdown/checking line role for nearly the entire season and other than a brief discussion with Bylsma very early in the year, has just been going about his business.
It's a well-deserved shot for Girgensons.
Not only that, Bylsma seems to be sticking with a lineup tweak he made late in the last game vs. Washington. He switched up his centers. Rookie Jack Eichel will be between Girgensons and Brian Gionta while Johan Larsson will be centering Evander Kane and Tyler Ennis.
All the aforementioned changes were necessary as the powerplay is 0/17 and both the lines looked way out of whack in the shutout loss on Monday.
The probable lines and defense pairing from Sabres.com:
Jamie McGinn, Ryan O'Reilly, Sam Reinhart
Evander Kane, Johan Larsson, Tyler Ennis
Zemgus Girgensons, Jack Eichel, Brian Gionta
Nic Deslauriers, David Legwand, Marcus Foligno/Matt Moulson
Josh Gorges - Rasmus Ristolainen
Jake McCabe - Zach Bogosian
Mike Weber - Cody Franson
Hamilton tweeted that Chad Johnson is in net and that he believes Marcus Foligno will be in for Moulson. That latter part makes a ton of sense, especially if it's gonna be a rough one.
31 Chad Johnson
35 Linus Ullmark