Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com
Buffalo's Jack Eichel and Detroit's Dylan Larkin will hook up for the fourth of five meetings this season as the Sabres host the Red Wings at First Niagara Center. Buffalo is 1-1-1 against Detroit so far with a win and a shootout-loss at Joe Louis Arena and a 4-3 loss at home.
The matchup of Eichel (born October 28, 1996) and Larkin (July 30, 1996) features two 19 yr. olds only three months apart but separated by the September 30th draft cutoff. Both are American born and both played for Team USA at the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championships, and would end up finishing their college careers before joining Team USA for the Men's World Hockey Championships last May.
Although Larkin was a 2014, 15th-overall pick by Detroit and Eichel was drafted 2nd-overall by Buffalo last season, both are in their first NHL season and are part of an extremely strong rookie class. They're also off to a very good start to their NHL careers and, what a surprise, they enter tonight's matchup with the exact same stat-line of 14 goals and 16 assists (with Eichel playing in two more games than Larkin.)
In the three head to head games thus far Eichel has 2g, 0a and is a plus-1 while Larkin has 0g, 1a, and is also a plus-1. Eichel had a shootout attempt as well and couldn't convert.
Larkin got off to an extremely hot start with six points (2+4) and a plus-7 rating, he's found his pace: 8g, 7a, plus-12 through the first 21 games; 6g, 9a through the next 24 games. Always in the top-six in Detroit, Larkin played a big chunk of the season thus far with Henrik Zetterberg and has recently been on a line with Pavel Datsyuk. The last time the two teams met he was on a line with Riley Sheahan and Brad Richards.
Buffalo's Eichel had a slower start potting four goals with zero assists in his first 13 games. But as the season progressed, he's gotten stronger. After hitting a wall just prior to the Christmas break, Eichel came back revived. In the 13 games since he has 14 points (5+9) and although his minus-7 leaves much to be desired, like a thoroughbred on the back-stretch, he's climbed back into the Calder Trophy race.
Both Eichel and Larkin are far behind Chicago Blackhawks Artemi Panarin in the rookie scoring race as the 24 yr. old has 45 points (16+29) so far. And that rookie class has also been without stud Connor McDavid who won't return from injury until after the All-Star break. But the American kids are having a pretty good season thus far and we'll get the chance to see them tonight.
Speaking of rookies, Buffalo's Sam Reinhart was having a pretty strong season until a collision in the Colorado game on Wednesday night wiped him out. The 20 yr. old collided head-on with John Mitchell of the Avalanche and came out on the wrong end. He left the game and would not return.
Although there's been no official word outside of "upper-body injury," one would think that Reinhart got his bell rung and suffered a concussion. Which brings us to the fate of Sabres forward Jamie McGinn.
McGinn has been having a strong season for Buffalo but will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of it. Once again Sabres GM Tim Murray said that UFA's may be moved for futures as the team is right now in 29th place. And that would include a player like McGinn even though he's been an integral piece of this portion of the Sabres build.
Were McGinn to hit he market at the trade deadline, speculation is he'd fetch a second or third-rounder. That makes the decision very tough as Buffalo will be headed into the First Niagara Center for the 2016 NHL Draft with 11 picks overall, but only one first and one second-rounder. What do they need more, picks or an strong I-beam with which to continue their build.
If somebody offered a first-round pick for McGinn, it's a no-brainer, you make the deal, especially in light of the Reinhart injury.
Suffering a concussion this early in one's career is never a good thing and is something that could lead to further problems down the road. Reinhart has made great strides in his game and is become the type of NHL player scouts saw at the junior level. Take him out of the equation and that's a lot of talent lost that needs to be replaced.
First-round talent is first round talent and having another top-30 pick, especially in what's shaping up to be a pretty deep draft-class, would serve the Sabres well in replacing that lost talent if necessary. I'd even go as far to say that a second-rounder in this class, especially with Murray's reputation for drafting NHL talent, might be too good to pass up as well.
We have about five weeks until the trade deadline so a lot can happen, but it's never too early to consider scenario's.
On January 18, 1958, Willie O'Ree broke the color barrier in the NHL as the first black-man to play in an NHL game.
Spike Lee produced a short on "The Jackie Robinson of Hockey" as a part of ESPN's Lil' Joints series and it can be found here in an article for The Hockey News.
It's a fascinating little piece on O'Ree and it afforded some pretty succinct yet revealing insights into his hockey life. It's worth checking out.
There are certain things that always queue a song in my head. I don't know why, they just do. Like when I crack open an Edmund Fitzgerald porter, Gordon Lightfoot comes on in my head. Same thing with the Detroit Red Wings.
Sometimes Detroit Rock City comes in but most of the time it's a song called Papa Hobo from Paul Simon's self-titled solo album. In it Simon talks about the power of the auto industry back in the late 60's/early 70's, the lure of "carbon and monoxide, the old Detroit perfume," and how the city had a "left-handed way of making a man sign up on that automotive dream."
He also references hockey and although it had been years since the Wings last won the Cup and the playoffs were a distant dream, Simon conjured up the Gordie Howe glory days of the Red Wings when he sang the line, "Detroit, Detroit. Got a hell of a hockey team."
The original is just awesome, but here's a cover by Vampire Weekends' Ezra Koenig off the Ceremony movie soundtrack.
Bylsma said that Sam Reinhart is out with an upper-body injury and that the timeline for his return "is currently about a week." Cal O'Reilly has been called up to Buffalo and forward Zemgus Girgensons has been placed on injured reserve.
The forward lines from the morning skate (via Sabres PR):
Evander Kane-Ryan O'Reilly-Matt Moulson
Cal O'Reilly-Jack Eichel-Jamie McGinn
Marcus Foligno-Johan Larsson-Brian Gionta
Phil Varone-Tim Schaller-David Legwand
The Sabres also noted that Josh Gorges (injury) was absent from the morning skate. The d-pairings:
Zach Bogosian - Rasmus Ristolainen
Jake McCabe - Cody Franson
Mike Weber - Mark Pysyk
Carlo Colaiacovo was the extra.
Bylsma says that Robin Lehner will be in goal for Buffalo tonight.