Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Buffalo on tap for Hockeyville. Welcome back, Jack. Five recalled from Rochester

Published by, 10-04-2016

Kraft Hockeyville is a very cool idea where small communities with a feverish passion for the sport of hockey compete to land a preseason game plus $150,000 in rink upgrades to accommodate the event. Hockeyville's roots are in Canada, of course, and it began as reality TV for the CBC. The first one was in 2006 featuring the Montreal Canadians facing off against the Ottawa Senators at Colchester Legion Colesium just outside of Salmon River, Nova Scotia, the community that won the inaugural season.

Since then the event has swelled in popularity. Kraft jumped in in 2008 and in 2015 Kraft Hockeyville USA was introduce in the States. This year the event features the Buffalo Sabres vs. the Carolina Hurricanes at Lakeview Arena in Marquette, Michigan who's estimated 2015 population is just over 21,000.

Good for them, and good for the Sabres as they'll be on the NBCSN tonight to kick off a three-game road-trip to end their preseason. After tonight's matchup the Sabres head south to face the 'Canes again tomorrow night then they finish off the preseason with a game in Ottawa against the rival Senators.

Perhaps that's why the team decided to recall five players from Rochester today. Forwards Justin Bailey, Daniel Catenacci, Jean Dupuy and Cole Schneider along with defenseman Brady Austin, who were sent to the Amerks late last week, were all in tow as the Sabres headed to Michigan. Of note, center Giorgio Estephan was sent back his junior club, the Lethbridge Hurricanes.

Sabres bench boss Dan Bylsma had mentioned to the gathered media that a recall like this could happen as Buffalo was playing three games in four nights on the road.  “There’s going to be opportunity sooner than later,” he told the press this past weekend. “With injury situations and bumps and bruises we have, there may be an opportunity for some of those guys to join us on that trip.

“They’ve been sent with that message don’t hang your head here. There’s going to be opportunity, and it could be coming shortly. A lot of guys have the opportunity to earn maybe one or two more games."

Big news for the Sabres is that Jack Eichel will be hitting the ice in the Blue and Gold for the first time this season. The 19 yr. old's season had already begun with his participation in the World Cup of Hockey for Team North America, something that helped get him ready for NHL competition. "I think it I was great," he told the gathered media upon his return to Buffalo. "Now you're stepping into camp and you've already played six real high end games against the world's best. You're in game shape, you know I feel good on the ice now so it's really nice."

According Jourdon LaBarber, Eichel, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, will be centering a line featuring the last three first round picks for Buffalo as 18 yr. old Alexander Nylander (8th-overall, 2016) will be at left wing and 2014 second-overall pick Sam Reinhart will be on his right. The other lines per LaBarber:

Tyler Ennis - Zemgus Girgensons - Marcus Foligno
Nicolas Deslauriers - Johan Larsson - Hudson Fasching
Cole Schneider - Derek Grant - Daniel Catenacci

In addition to seeing Eichel in the Blue and Gold for the first time this season, fans will be looking to see if he and Reinhart can drum up some of the magic they had last season. And not only that, we'll also get the opportunity to see if Nylander can get into the flow with those two. The other two lines are split almost evenly between those who will be on the roster--Ennis, Girgensons, Foligno, Deslauriers and Larsson--and those who more than likely are headed back to Rochester--Fasching, Grant, Schneider and Catenacci.

Grant has been a standout thus far this preseason and is making a strong case to stick with the big club. Bylsma had Grant skating in the top-six during the first and he responded with two goals and two assists in three game. The question tonight is will he be able to transfer his top-six succeses to a lesser role in the bottom-six which is a role he'll play for Buffalo should he make the big club.

Three of the Sabres top-six defensemen will not be playing tonight and they'll probably be sitting for the rest of the preseason. Rasmus Ristolainen remains unsigned while Zach Bogosian and Dmitry Kulikov are sidelined with injuries.

And finally, World Cup of Hockey Gold Medalist Ryan O'Reilly is back with the club but won't play tonight, he's expected to be on the ice tomorrow, however.

O'Reilly is coming off of a pretty impressive first season in Buffalo. He lead the team in scoring, played in every crucial situation and lead all forwards with 21:44 average ice-time last season. But Bylsma said after practice yesterday that he would like pare back O'Reilly's ice-time this season. "We counted on him so many things last year," said Bylsma to the gathered press yesterday. "I played him too much. I don't like saying that but I played him too much. I'd like to count on him less as the strength of our team can come from more areas and count on Ryan to do a little less."

No surprises, Bylsma said O'Reilly was itching to get in the lineup tonight but it will have to wait until tomorrow night.

LaBarber reports that Robin Lehner is getting the start in goal for the Sabres.

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