Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com
Just how much do the Buffalo Sabres miss Ryan O'Reilly?
Plenty. Just ask Jack Eichel who was hounded by the Ducks, especially Ryan Kesler. In just over 20 minutes Eichel, who is Buffalo's top center with O'Reilly out, managed only two shots on goal which isn't all that surprising considering Eichel went only 3-13 (23%) in the faceoff circle vs. Kesler.
Eichel and the Sabres did a lot of chasing last night as each faceoff loss meant energy expended trying to get it back. Buffalo went 25-61 (41%) on draws and it really hurt late in the third period with the Sabres trailing 1-0 and looking to get goalie Robin Lehner off in favor of the extra attacker.
All-in-all, the final two minutes was a comedy of errors as Buffalo would mishandle the entire situation. Even though the Sabres would go three of six on the dot, they couldn't keep the puck in the Anaheim zone long enough to get Lehner off the ice.
Beginning at the 17:15-mark Buffalo:
--turned the puck over in the offensive zone
--turned it over in their own zone giving up a clear shot in the high slot
--turned the puck over in the neutral zone
--were called for off sides at the 18:02-mark
--won a two neutral zone faceoffs, but the Ducks cleared
--were called for icing
--won the draw but couldn't get the puck into the Ducks zone
--with :56 seconds to go, put the puck in the benches
--won the faceoff, got Lehner to the bench
--were called for icing after the Ducks cleared the zone
--after using their timeout, lost the draw
--and in the final :30 seconds could only muster a missed shot on goal
Although it wasn't a "jump-off-the-Peace-Bridge" kind of game, that ending was thouroughly frustrating as a veteran Anaheim club choked the life out of a young Sabres team.
Buffalo had many chances during the game to score but just could not get one past Ducks goalie Frederik Andersen as he stopped all 20 shots the Sabres sent his way including an incredible toe-save on Sabres rookie Justin Bailey. There were other stout saves, like on Marcus Foligno and Brian Gionta, who had seven shots on goal, and Mark Pysyk fanned on a golden opportunity in tight. But what it came down to is a veteran team with Stanley Cup winners as leaders, getting the job done.
Sabres bench boss Dan Bylsma noted that the young Sabres went toe-to-toe with a red-hot Anaheim team, but wasn't satisfied with the loss. "We had every opportunity to get a few goals in that game and win the hockey game, and we come up short," he told the gathered media post-game. "Certainly a good team we're playing. They're one of the better teams in the league, if not the hottest team in the league right now, but still one I think we should have.
""We didn’t capitalize on the opportunities."
Would O'Reilly have made a difference? You betcha. With him and his line garnering the attention of the opposition's best checkers, it sets the lineup and allows for more opportunities for the second and third lines.
Buffalo heads up the coast to take on the San Jose' Sharks on Friday.
Apparently a first-ever, on-ice matchup between Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers vs. Eichel and the Buffalo Sabres wasn't intriguing enough for NBCSN to keep it on the schedule.
The March 1 game at Buffalo is "McEichel" incarnate as the two top players of the 2015 NHL Draft were set to meet for the first time. Buffalo had already played Edmonton but the Oilers were without McDavid as he was out with a broken collarbone.
Perhaps with all the Toronto tanking accusations flying around, the network and the NHL felt that showcasing two teams who were at the bottom of the standings last year, with one, Buffalo, clearly in the running for last place in the league, isn't what the league or network wanted, especially the day after the trade deadline.
Or, it could just be the simple fact that Buffalo and Edmonton are at the bottom of the league again, 26th and 30th respectively.
The Rochester Americans are headed to Cleveland tonight to take on the Lake Erie Monsters (CLB) riding a three-game winning streak.
The Amerks are coming off of a banner weekend in which they won all three games for the first time this season including two in OT. They had home wins vs. the Portland Pirates (FLA) and Wilkes-Barre Scranton (PIT,) both in OT and pounded the Syracuse Crunch (TBL) on the road, 6-2.
The Amerks and Monsters haven't met since the season opener at Blue Cross Arena to kick off Rochester's 60th season. Matt Ellis had the hat trick and the Amerks rolled to a 6-3 win.
Although the NHL trade deadline is on Monday, players on AHL affiliates must also deal with the possibility of being on the move Feb. 29. The Sabres have four unrestricted free agents on the roster right now and six restricted free agents as well. Down in Rochester they have one UFA in defenseman Bobby Sanguinetti and 12 RFA's, according to General Fanager.
Forwards (7)--Tim Schaller, Jerry D'Amigo, Jack Nevins, Daniel Catenacci, Phil Varone, Colin Jacobs, Jason Akeson
Defensemen (3)--Matt Donovan, Jerome Leduc, Chad Ruhwedel,
Goalies (2)--Nate Lieuwen, Andrey Makarov
The Sabres have an abundance of picks in the third round and lower at the draft this season (nine at this time) plus these young(er) RFA's and plenty of cap-space to take on salary and/or retain salary so it wouldn't be surprising if GM Tim Murray tries to sweeten the pot with any an all resources available to him. That could include a name or two from the above list.