Published by hockeybuzz.com, 10-24-2016
In their first game together as a line they came out on fire and looked as if they'd been playing together for years. Ryan O'Reilly, Sam Reinhart and Kyle Okposo hit the Rogers Place ice in Edmonton, Alberta and proceeded to light up the Oilers for three goals and four assists in a 6-2 Sabres victory. From there the team traveled to Calgary and Vancouver with the trio accounting for only one goal (O'Reilly) and one assist (Okposo) against the Flames and zilch against the Canucks.
Reinhart, who sparkled in his rookie campaign last season with 23 goals (second on the team) and 42 points (third) has hit a speed bump as he's been held to two assists through four games. Reinhart hasn't been playing poorly as his even plus/minus alludes to, but he hasn't taken the reigns on the top line in the absence of Jack Eichel and Evander Kane.
Head coach Dan Bylsma did some juggling yesterday an told the gathered media after practice yesterday that the team is "looking for more balance" in the top-nine. Bylsma moved Reinhart to another line centering Tyler Ennis and Zemgus Girgensons, who was at center and is now on the wing again, to make room for Matt Moulson who's made a strong pitch to exercise the demons from last year.
Bylsma pointed out that Moulson had played with Okposo before (for the NY Islanders) and "had some chemistry before" while also pointing out that he was "around the net" and had numerous scoring chances in Vancouver. Moulson has been a different player through four games and even though both of his goals have come on the powerplay, he's been working hard to get into position to score, which is a far cry from his eight-goal, 2015-16 campaign.
For Bylsma, moving Reinhart to center (hopefully) works on a couple of levels. As mentioned, the Sabres are in need of secondary scoring and perhaps distributing the wealth, so to speak, can spark the trio as Ennis is also goalless while Girgensons has just one on the year. But Bylsma also pointed out that Reinhart needs some jump in his step. While acknowledging that Reinhart has made some "great plays for us," Bylsma needs more from Reinhart. "I think Sam needs to get his feet moving a little more and needs a little more speed to his game," he said. "We need more out of Sam--playing a little bit faster, a little bit quicker--and [for him] to provide a little more offense for our team."
One line Bylsma isn't touching is the Johan Larsson, Brian Gionta, Marcus Foligno line. Reunited late in the 4-1 opening night loss to Montreal, the trio easily found the chemistry that last year made them the most consistent line on the team. Through four games they've combined for three goals and seven points while humming the net with scoring chances. Bylsma pointed out yesterday that Foligno has had 10 scoring chances while Gionta and Larsson have had eight each.
Outside of the six-goal outburst against Edmonton, the Sabres have only been able to score four goals in the other three games forcing "Disco Dan" to do his shuffle.
We'll see how it works out in Philadelphia tomorrow night.
One more note. Apparently some Sabres players are dealing with illness. Bylsma wouldn't confirm individual players but the reporters noticed that goaltender Robin Lehner "didn't look good coming out of the locker room." Bylsma said that illness has affected four or five players "a couple," he said, "of the Scandinavian culture." Lehner is from Sweden.