Published by hockeybuzz.com, 3-16-2017
The Buffalo Sabres are in Los Angeles tonight for Game-2 of their three-game West Coast swing. The Sabres defeated the Kings in Buffalo back in December as they overcame a 2-0 deficit with four unanswered goals in a span of 6:15 to eventually win 6-3. Ryan O'Reilly, Jack Eichel (2,) and Brian Gionta scored in the Sabres blitzkrieg while Evander Kane and Sam Reinhart finished it off with goals late in the third period.
With that win, the Sabres are assured of at least a season split for the fourth season in a row. Somehow, even through the down years of 2013-15, Buffalo has managed a win at home. However, haven't won in Los Angeles since 2003.
The Kings are battling for a wild card spot while the Sabres, for all intents and purposes, have only 12 games left before their season ends.
It's been a rough season for the Sabres with everyone feeling the heat from the players to head coach Dan Bylsma to GM Tim Murray. Injuries and inconsistencies have plagued the club since Eichel was lost for the first 21 games with a high-ankle sprain. Although they had many opportunities to get on a roll, Buffalo's longest winning streak reached three games while their longest points-streak reached four. Every team above them in the standings has had a winning streak of at least five games or more save for the NY Islanders who've had two six game points-streaks with five wins each time.
The Sabres will face off against former defenseman Brayden McNabb who was traded by Murray to the Kings on March 5, 2014. In the deal Murray also sent two second round picks (both acquired from LA in the Robyn Regehr trade) and in return the Sabres received two "heavies," as Murray called them--forward Hudson Fasching and defenseman turned winger, Nicolas Deslauriers.
It was Murray's first trade of his own volition as the trade of Ryan Miller and Co. to the St. Louis Blues on February 28, 2014 was in the works via the previous regime.
Murray is getting his fair share of the blame for a disappointing 2016-17 Sabres season as the defense he went into the season with has been sub-par at best, brutalized at worst. Although McNabb isn't anything close to a Bill Hajt-type shutdown defenseman, the 26 yr. old former third-round pick (2009) has managed to play a third-pairing role while also showing some capabilities when placed in the top four.
I'm not sure the left-handed McNabb would have brought much more to the table than any of the other bottom-four defenseman for Buffalo, but when you look at a poor season by Deslauriers, the injuries that have plagued Fasching this season as well, and when you add in that the Sabres defense looked to be in disarray for the better part of 2016-17, an argument could be made that he may have been able to help.
Fasching, who suffered a severe groin injury in a game October 30 may be back in the lineup tonight as rookie winger Justin Bailey has been dinged. The 6'2" 207 lb Fasching got the call from Rochester for the West Coast swing and is looking for his first NHL point this season. After returning from injury Fasching played in 23 games for the Amerks registering five goals and two assists in that span. He's had one point in his last six Amerks games.
It's another late start as the puck drops at 10:30 EST.
There's a tendency in Sabreland, or most any fanbase for that matter, to consecrate a lost player as the second coming. Even though said player may have been a good player, when he leaves Buffalo he's placed a notch or two above where he really was.
We went through that with McNabb after he played next to Drew Doughty and acquitted himself well. All of a sudden, a projected third-pairing defenseman became was looked at as a top-two and the Sabres screwing up.
It's happening again with departed defenseman Mark Pysyk.
Pysyk was traded to the Florida Panthers along with two picks for defenseman Dmitry Kulikov and the 33rd-overall pick at the June draft. While Kulkove was struggling with injury and downright awful play at times, Pysyk was holding his own and playing well in a third-pairing role for the Panthers.
Good for him. When playing for Buffalo Pysyk was a steady defenseman who could move the puck and occasionally jump up into the play. He was the type of player that the Sabres could've used this season although how much of an impact he could've made is debatable as he probably would've been in the same bottom-pairing role he'd been in the previous season in Buffalo.
The Panthers had him playing big minutes the last three games and Pysyk has responded with two goals and an assist while the team has gone 1-2-0 in those three games. The last game was a 7-3 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs which prompted Cats color commentator (and NHL Hall of Fame defenseman) Denis Potvin to get fired up about Pysyk's potential.
That in turn was overheard by former Sabres defenseman Mike Robitaille who was on with the morning crew on WGR.
The talk moved toward "who's to blame" for the disappointing Sabres season and the focus was now on Murray and some of his trades. McNabb was the first name up then the host brought up Pysyk. Robitaille used Potvin's commentary as a springboard noting that Pysyk was said to be "taking over the Florida defense" with top d-man Aaron Ekblad out. Then he went on to say that Pysyk's "solid, money in the bank," and "a 15-year defenseman, top-four.
"He's the real deal," said Roby.
Pysyk may very well be "the real deal" but just how much of a "real deal" are we talking about. Normally when you use a phrase like that you're talking superstar or star playing in a top role. When Pysyk was in Buffalo, most thought he was a No. 4-6 defenseman which is probably where he'll end up his career. He's a smart player who knows how to play the game and will do so in a manner that may in fact last 15 years.
Once again, good for him. I always liked his game and if he's a good fit in Florida more power to him and the Panthers. If the trade ends up being a flop for Murray, and Kulikov's problems certainly make it that way for this season, and/or if Pysyk does become a Niklas Hjalmarsson-type or better, than so be it.
However, spare me the canonization of Pysyk at this juncture of his career.
Defenseman Taylor Fedun has been recalled from Rochester and is headed to Los Angeles. Fedun was recalled to replace Justin Falk who's dinged up.
The 28 yr. old Fedun last played for the Sabres on February 12 against Vancouver. In 25 games for the Sabres the soon to be unrestricted free agent had seven assists and was a plus-3 while averaging 13:38 of ice-time.