Published by hockeybuzz.com, 10-31-2016
The Buffalo Sabres finished the month of October on a high note with back-to-back matinee wins. On Saturday they shut out the Florida Panthers at KeyBank Center 3-0 then hopped on a plane to Winnipeg, Manitoba where they came away with a 3-1 victory over the Jets yesterday.
It's been a rough go of it for the Sabres as they've been without two top-six forwards in Jack Eichel and Evander Kane but they managed to eek out a 3-3-2 record to start the season. Eichel suffered a high-ankle sprain the day before the home opener and looks to be out until December while Kane crashed heavily into the boards in the home opener cracking three ribs in the process. Updates have Eichel out of his walking boot and Kane moving much better but an expected 4-6 week recovery time has him back on the ice in late November. By the looks of it the Sabres will be without both for another 10 games or so next month.
Without those two head coach Dan Bylsma has had to do some line juggling but after some trial and error he at least found himself two lines that appear to be clicking. The most consistent line by far has been Johan Larsson centering Marcus Foligno and captain Brian Gionta. They were put together later in the 2015-16 season and upon reforming they immediately found the same chemistry they had last year.
The other is the top line of Ryan O'Reilly centering 2016 free agent signee Kyle Okposo and Matt Moulson. O'Reilly has been his usual all-around, impact-making self although this year he's not carrying the offensive load like he did last year when he lead the team in every offensive category during the month of October. This season he finished the month in a three-way tie for the points lead with seven while leading the team in assists with four. Okposo also has seven points for a share of the team lead while he and Moulson lead the team with four goals each.
Moulson is coming off of his worst season as a pro and although he hasn't been able to light the lamp five-on-five he leads the team with four powerplay goals and he looks like a totally different player out there.
Defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen joins O'Reilly and Okposo atop the Sabres leaderboard with seven points, all of them assists with six coming on the powerplay to easily lead in that category. Of note, Buffalo has yet to get a goal from a defenseman this season.
Last season defenseman Jake McCabe lead all Sabres with a plus-six plus/minus rating and he starts out the season on top once again with a plus-four. And it doesn't seem to matter who he's paired with. Last season it was Zach Bogosian, whom he started the season with, but Bylsma made a switch to get fellow d-man Dmitry Kulikov more ice time. McCabe dropped to the third-pairing alongside Cody Franson before the Philadelphia game and has been his usual solid self. He's a plus-one since the move while Franson is a plus-2. They are the only two Buffalo defensemen in the plus column.
Interesting notes on the goaltenders.
Anders Nilsson was the beneficiary of a 3-0 shutout vs. Florida on Saturday. His record improved to 1-1-1 but he saw huge improvements in his goals against average as it dropped from 2.09 to 1.96 while his save percentage leaped from .903 to .937.
Starter Robin Lehner was in net while the team was struggling to begin the season, missed three games in a row, then came back for yesterday's 3-1 victory at Winnipeg. His one-goal, 37-save performance yesterday helped him improve to 2-2-1 on the season with a 2.61 GAA and .913 Sv%.
Buffalo Sabres 2016-17 Individual Stats:
--October: October: Okposo, O'Reilly, Ristolainen, 7; Moulson, Brian Gionta, 5
--October: Okposo, Moulson 4; O'Reilly, Brian Gionta, 3
--October: Moulson, 4; O'Reilly, 2; Okposo, Sam Reinhart, 1
--October: Ristolainen, 7; O'Reilly, 4; Reinhart, Okposo, Franson, 3
--October: O'Reilly, Reinhart, Ristolainen, 3; Gionta, Zemgus Girgensons, 2
--October: Ristolainen, 6; Okposo, 3; O'Reilly, Reinhart, 2
--October: McCabe, +4; Gionta, +3; Okposo, Franson, +2
--October: Tyler Ennis, -4; Nicolas Deslauriers, Derek Grant, -3:
--October: 2-2-1; 2.61 GAA; .913 Sv%; 0 shutouts
--October: 1-1-1; 1.96 GAA; .937 Sv%; 1 shutout