Saturday, September 30, 2017

Some spots are set, other are not as Sabres finish preseason tonight

Published by, 9-29-2017

Say what you will about the final results in each game, but Sabres fans who've been watching this team the past two seasons are seeing a far different product on the ice this preseason. In a "release-the-hounds!!!" approach to the Buffalo game-plan, new coach Phil Housley has his team skating fast and skating hard as evidenced by the last game played against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The two-time defending Stanley Cup Champion Penguins have speed to burn and their head coach has had them rippin' up and down the ice ever since he took over in December, 2015. It's a result that speaks for itself in the two Cups as well as a change in overall philosophy in the NHL as teams imitate what went on in Pittsburgh. Buffalo is lucky to have a GM in Jason Botterill that came from the Penguins and a coach in Housley who's philosophy is and always has been, whether playing the game or coaching as an assistant in Nashville, everyone attack with speed.

The Sabres are going through a period of adjustment right now and will be doing so for weeks to come. After the 5-4 loss at Pittsburgh where the Sabres scored two goals in the final minute with the goalie pulled, Housley said that there were "a lot of things to be positive about."

"I thought we took a big step forward tonight, " the coach said to the gathered media post-game. "I think this is the fastest we've looked. We were breaking out of our own end really well with five guys down low and then [transitioning to] the attack.

"The things that we can correct, the technical things, are things we can correct. We can build off of this moving forward."

The season begins less than one week from now and by the looks of today's morning skate, we can be sure of a few things moving forward with the players up-front.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Building the 2017-18 Buffalo Sabres roster--The Reserves

It was a big weekend for cuts as the Buffalo Sabres sent forward Cliff Pu back to his junior club and 14 players to the Rochester Americans. Pu had an excellent training camp and Prospects Challenge tournament while also impressing the Sabres brass to the point where he stuck with the team for Friday's game in Toronto. Although he missed his London Knights opener, he would come back the next night to record two primary assists, including one in overtime, as the Knights won 3-2.

With the Rochester Americans set to open camp today, 14 players were sent east on I-90:

Forwards: Kevin Porter (subject to waivers), Stevie Moses, Eric Cornel, Vaclav Karabacek, Kyle Criscuolo, Hudson Fasching, C.J. Smith

Defensemen Casey Nelson, Brycen Martin, Devante Stephens, Brendan Guhle

Goaltenders Adam Wilcox, Jonas Johansson, Jason Kasdorf

The Amerks open up their preseason schedule with a back-to-back with the Toronto Marlies this Friday and Saturday.

The Sabres have two more preseason games before they begin the regular season on Thursday, October 5 when the Montreal Canadiens visit KeyBank Center. This weekend wasn't kind to the club as they suffered back-to-back losses at the hands of the rival Toronto Maple Leafs. With the team still adapting to coach Phil Housley's system and Housley himself still adjusting to being an NHL head coach, the Leafs came away with 3-0 and 3-1 victories against Buffalo with three of Toronto's goals coming in the form of empty-netters.

Amongst the positives for Buffalo was the goaltending of Linus Ullmark who stopped 32 of 33 shots in the first game and Robin Lehner who stopped 30 of 32 in the second game. Buffalo's penalty kill also did some yeoman's work as they went 11/13 (84%) while being shorthanded.

Bubble roster players only have two more games to make an impression with the final preseason game normally used as a tune-up for the opening night roster. With a new system being put in place for both clubs, and GM Jason Botterill's commitment to not only proper seasoning for his young players, but also making Rochester more competitive, it's not surprising to see players like Guhle and Hudson Fasching get sent down. And it also may be an indication of who amongst the remaining 12 skaters will stick with Buffalo in a reserve role when the season opens.

Nicolas Deslauriers
26 yrs. old
6'1" 215 lbs.
2009 third-round (84th-overall, LAK)
Acquired from the LA Kings in a trade on March 5, 2104

Career stats:  211 games  |  12 goals  |  18 assists  |  30 points  |  -54

When former Sabres GM Tim Murray took the reigns of the club in January, 2014, it would seem as if he wanted to build a club in the mold of the LA Kings. The two-time Cup-winning Kings played a physical, heavy Western Conference style of play and Murray went right to the source to snag two "heavies" in Nicolas Deslauriers and Hudson Fasching in a trade with Los Angeles.

Deslauriers was a converted defenseman playing wing in a bottom-six role. At 215 lbs. he has the heft, wasn't afraid to through that weight around, would drop the gloves and could skate pretty well too. He had a solid first full NHL season in Buffalo registering 15 points (5+10) in a fourth-line role while playing in all 82 games for the Sabres in 2015-16.

However, despite scoring one more goal in 12 less games for Buffalo last season, Deslauriers looked like he took a step back. The big powerforward seemed slow to react to what was transpiring on the ice and as the speed of the game went up, his ice-time went down from 10:20 to 7:25.

Deslauriers has had a good training camp and may have done enough to warrant a spot on the roster in a reserve role.

Justin Bailey
22 yrs. old
6'4" 214 lbs.
2013, 52nd-overall

Career stats:  40 games  |  2 goals  |  2 assists  |  4 points  |  -2

This might go against what was laid out earlier, but there are a few factors involved in Bailey making the Sabres opening night roster.

The first one is the injury to Evan Rodrigues. The forward was hit hard into the boards over the weekend and his status is up in the air. Although the 24 yr. old Rodrigues wasn't a shoe-in to make the roster, he was having an extremely strong camp and was getting noticed for all the right reasons by the Sabres brass. If he's out there's room for Justin Bailey in the bottom-six in Buffalo.

Second in is Bailey's maturity and his success at the AHL-level. Although only 22 yrs. old, the big powerforward with impressive skating ability he seems to have learned about all he can from the minors with 81 points (43+38) in 122 AHL games.

Thirdly, he's made an impression on the penalty kill during preseason which is something that helped separate him  from other roster-bubble players. It's a change in philosophy short-handed that may have given him an in to the Sabres roster. According to Bailey, the coaches want more aggressiveness on the kill. "I'm a big guy and I have a long reach with my stick," he told the gathered media this weekend, "and one of my best assets is my legs, so whether it's a loose puck or a rebound or anything like that they want us to be going hard and physical at the guy."

He's smart enough to realize that if the PK is his ticket to the big club, than so be it.

Josh Gorges
33 yrs. old
6'1" 204 lbs.
Undrafted FA
Acquired from the Montreal Canadiens July 1, 2014

Career stats:  749 games  |  17 goals  |  105 assists  |  122 points  |  -2

Gorges was part of a veteran trio that Murray brought in on July 1, 2014 to help guide the youngins through what was about to become a very difficult transition. He, Brian Gionta and Matt Moulson all wore letters for the abysmal 2014-15 season and the transitional 2015-16 season.

As a defensive defenseman with some sandpaper to his game, Gorges was a good compliment to young defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen through those years. Although he struggled to keep pace with the best the opposition had to offer as a top-pairing defenseman, he held his own and was especially adept on the penalty kill. In Buffalo's first season out of the basement, the Sabres finished ninth in the league on the kill with a 82.6% success rate.

Gorges slowly moved down the depth-chart last season, and rightfully so, as the speed of the game began to pass him by. At 33 yrs. old and with a lot of wear and tear on his body after playing years as a rugged defenseman, playing on the third-pairing while also playing key minutes short-handed was an ideal situation for him. He's always been dependable but the game has changed and with Botterill bringing in three mobile defenseman who are more to what Housley is looking for, Gorges looks to be the odd man out.

When injuries hit, he'll get the call and there's a possibility that he could end up on the trade block at the trade-deadline next year as he's in the final year of his contract.

Building the 2017-18 Buffalo Sabres roster:

LW, Evander Kane / C, Jack Eichel / RW, Sam Reinhart
LW, Benoit Pouliot / C, Ryan O'Reilly / RW, Kyle Okposo
LW, Evan Rodrigues / C, Johan Larsson / RW, Jason Pominville
LW, Zemgus Girgensons / C, Jacob Josefson / RW, Matt Moulson

Nicolas Deslauriers /  Justin Bailey

D, Marco Scandella / D, Rasmus Ristolainen
D, Jake McCabe / D, Zach Bogosian
D, Nathan Beaulieu / D, Victor Antipin

Josh Gorges

G, Robin Lehner
G, Chad Johnson

Leafs in town as it's Toronto/Buffalo Round-2

Published by, 9-23-2017

Last night's game didn't go so well for the Buffalo Sabres. They were shut out by the Maple Leafs 3-0 and took nine penalties, many of the being the kind teams take when they're chasing the puck. It was the Leafs first win of the preseason and new Sabres head coach felt his team wasn't quite ready for them. "You're looking at a team, and I know it's early in preseason, but they lost two games, scored four goals and they gave up 11 against," he said to the gathered media post game. "You know they were going to come out with some hair on their back, and we weren't ready for that."

That said, it's still preseason, teams are adapting to new rule changes and the Sabres did ice a bevy of role players against a Toronto team that played a few of their stars like Auston Matthews, Patrick Marleau and William Nylander. If we can take anything from the game, the team killed off eight of those nine penalties and Buffalo goalie Linus Ullmark stopped 32 of 33 shots, including a couple with his head.

Housley did come up with a positive spin on last night's game. "I think [the performance] does put a damper on it, but we had a good evaluation tonight," he said. "That was a pretty strong lineup. They're strong down the middle, they had a lot of their top scorers out there and some of their D, so it was a good evaluation in that respect.

"Our guys are going to have to learn that it's only going to get harder from here on in."

Tonight at KeyBank Center, Buffalo will be icing a few of their own stars in Jack Eichel, Evander Kane, Kyle Okposo, Sam Reinhart and Rasmus Ristolainen. Plus it looks as if starting goalie Robin Lehner will get the nod.

Here's the lines from the morning skate from Jourdon LaBarber of

26 Matt Moulson - 15 Jack Eichel - 21 Kyle Okposo
9 Evander Kane - 23 Sam Reinhart - 29 Jason Pominville
49 C.J. Smith - 22-Johan Larsson- 24 Hudson Fasching
44 Nicolas Deslauriers - 51 Kyle Criscuolo - 95 Justin Bailey

82 Nathan Beaulieu - 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
45 Brendan Guhle - 5 Matt Tennyson
4 Josh Gorges - 93 Victor Antipin

40 Robin Lehner
31 Chad Johnson
34 Jonas Johansson

Some notes:

Matt Moulson, who's looking to revive a sputtering career gets a shot to make an impression as he's on the top line with Jack Eichel while Eichel also gets a new winger in Okposo.

The second line is intriguing as Reinhart gets the speed of Kane on his left side with the veteran savvy and finish of Jason Pominville on his right. C.J. Smith, Hudson Fasching and Justin Bailey, all of whom played partial seasons in Buffalo for various reasons will also be looking to make an impression as there are one or two wing spots available including a coveted one in the top-six.

On defense, can Brendan Guhle come up with a consistent effort and will Josh Gorges show enough in Housley's new system to garner consideration for the top-six on defense.

Puck drop is at 7:00 p.m.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Warning. This is about Kaepernick, Trump the NFL and the Pens

It began with Colin Kaepernick being the lone dissenter while kneeling during the U.S. National Anthem. It was his way of protesting what he felt were grave injustices perpetrated against black men which included deaths at the hands of the police and eventual shooter acquittals. "I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," he stated as his protest began during a preseason game in 2016. "To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder,"

Kaepernick is a football player and a mullato who was adopted by an upper-middle class family.

On the football field he took the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2013 and to the NFC Championship game in 2014 but had watched his short career decline after a coaching change. He never caught fire on the field like he did those two seasons in San Francisco and the football world was left with an average quarterback who'd probably end up being one of those notable career journeymen who stuck around for years as a back-up while ending up with a few starts here and there.

Kaepernick played in 12 games for the 49ers last season putting up average numbers. He remains unsigned in 2017 leading some to believe that he's being blackballed as there are other quarterbacks seen as lesser players who have NFL jobs, some even starting.

His singular protest of kneeling gathered heaping amounts of media coverage causing a fierce debate over it's meaning. On one side (the one I take,) Kaepernick is using his constitutional right to free speech to voice his distaste for the way blacks are being treated. The other side sees it as an affront to America and a desecration of the American flag and the National Anthem.

Up until this past weekend, the protest by Kaepernick gained little traction on the field as only a handful of players followed in his footsteps by kneeling through the Anthem. And as had been the case since 2016, there were other players who showed their support by standing next to the teammate with a hand on his shoulder pad.

A speech from the President was like a match in a munitions bunker

Then came the firestorm known as U.S. President Donald Trump. At a rally in Alabama on Friday he said the "son-of-a-bitch" protesting during the National Anthem should be fired. He followed up with a tweet telling fans they could enact swift change if they stopped going to the games "until players stop disrespecting our Flag and Country." Which taken together represented a salvo across the bow of the NFL.

The NFL responded by stating it stood by it's players and was proud of them while teams showed their support in a number of ways which included locking arms as a team as a way of protesting the onslaught by Trump. New England Patriots QB Tom Brady locked arms with a teammate while placing his hand over his heart but huge chunk of players, said to be over 250, knelt during the Anthem. Owners were seen on the field in locked arms with their players in a show of unification while the Dallas Cowboys and owner Jerry Jones locked arms and took a knee on Monday Night Football before the Anthem in response to Trump's salvos.

The entire Tennessee Titans and Seattle Seahawks teams didn't take the field for the National Anthem while all but one player from the Pittsburgh Steelers stayed away. Lineman Allejandro Villeneuava, and Army veteran who had multiple tours in Afghanistan faced Old Glory while in the tunnel with hand on heart as the Star Spangled Banner was played.

It was a move he regretted afterwards.

“This national-anthem ordeal has been out of control, and there’s a lot of blame on myself,” he said Monday to the press. “Every single time I see that picture of me standing by myself, I feel embarrassed. The idea was to be unified as a team when so much attention is paid to things dividing our country. Unfortunately, I threw [my teammates] under the bus, unintentionally."

Protest affecting other sports while not reaching the NHL yet. Or is it?

The protests hit Major League Baseball as Oakland Athletics rookie catcher Bruce Maxwell took a knee during the Anthem and an entire WNBA team stayed off the court during the Star Spangled Banner.

On the other side, much to Trump's pleasure (as he tweeted,) NASCAR racing legend and team owner Richard Petty split no hairs when he said, "Anybody that don’t stand up for [the Anthem] ought to be out of the country. Period."

And the Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins reiterated over the weekend that they will head to the White House to accept congratulations from the President as is customary. “The Pittsburgh Penguins respect the institution of the Office of the President, and the long tradition of championship teams visiting the White House,” the statement read as reported by the  Pittsburgh Gazette. “We attended White House ceremonies after previous championships—touring the historic building and visiting briefly with Presidents George H.W. Bush and Barack Obama—and have accepted an invitation to attend again this year.

"Any agreement or disagreement with a president's politics, policies or agenda can be expressed in other ways. However, we very much respect the rights of other individuals and groups to express themselves as they see fit.”

Of the four North American sports, hockey is the only one with it's roots outside the United States with a majority of it's players being Canadian. It also the only sport that's predominantly white while the economics of playing the game mean many of it's players come from middle and upper-middle class families.

Sportsnet's Mark Spector in a piece today summed up the sport and politics this way, "to expect a bunch of mostly Canadian and European white men — the products of largely upper middle class upbringing — to make a stand against bigotry and divisiveness in America is a reach.
"There just isn’t enough oppression in hockey, or interest in American politics, to create an issue, yet."

That 'yet' at the end of the sentence is interesting as it does leave the door open for the controversy to sneak into the NHL. Spector writes that hockey players do not want to stand out from their teammates and asks the question,  "Could you ever see a hockey player not standing for an anthem, while 19 teammates stood, helmets in hand?"

The answer is, no. In fact there are some cities where both the Canadian and American Anthems are played and players stand through both. In Buffalo they play both and it's kind of cool as hockey fans in the city know the Canadian Anthem.

However, that could change.

Hockey players are different, but we're all the same.

Hockey players are human beings too and when push comes to shove, they shove back or drop the gloves. That's what happened in the NFL as the protest by Kaepernick and then a small group of individuals really ramped when that group was attacked in a personal way by Trump when he called a kneeling player a "son-of-a-bitch." Normally complacent teammates entered the fray in defense of their "brothers" and/or to protest an iron fist being thrust their way.

It's a natural reaction.

Although hockey has been in a mostly white bubble thus far, lest we forget, there are black players in the NHL. Not a lot, but there are some and one of them may take umbrage with the President. The Sabres have a black player in Evander Kane who Spector stated, has "been known to march to the beat of his own drummer." That individualism, wrote Spector, may cause him to stand out "not because he's black, but because he's "said to be a poor teammate which does not work in hockey circles."

In stating it that way, Spector laid the groundwork for a player like Kane to make a stand even though he's still a Canadian who's political focus may be directed elsewhere if it exists at all. As independent as Kane may feel, he may be averse to American politics and may have the same view as Milan Lucic, another Vancouver-born player.

"Americans are more emotionally involved in politics, compared to us (Canadians,)" Lucic told Spector. "It’s a bigger part of their lives, and a bigger topic at social events. At family or neighborhood barbecues, it’s a topic.”

Lucic was on the 2011 Cup-winning Boston Bruins who visited the White House when Obama, the first black president in U.S. history, was in office. Ironically, one of two Americans on his team, goalie Tim Thomas who is white, made a political statement by not going on the White House.
In a statement released by Thomas explaining his decision not to attend he wrote:  "I believe the Federal government has grown out of control, threatening the Rights, Liberties, and Property of the People.

"This is being done at the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial level. This is in direct opposition to the Constitution and the Founding Fathers vision for the Federal government.

"Because I believe this, today I exercised my right as a Free Citizen, and did not visit the White House. This was not about politics or party, as in my opinion both parties are responsible for the situation we are in as a country. This was about a choice I had to make as an INDIVIDUAL."

Thomas' statement set a precedent for any NHL player who wishes to join the political fray created by Kaepernick controversy.

Will the NHL or any of it's players be pulled into the controversy?

Eventually the NHL could be lured into the fray. I'm not sure what President Trump, who's known for his incendiary remarks and tweets, could do to tick off the NHL, a team or any of it's players, but rest assured, if it's out there, he'll find it.

The NHL is about to start a new season and it just added a team in the expansion Vegas Golden Knights. The league is coming off of a very successful 100th anniversary season and they have a stable of young players who may be the best assembled group of superstars to hit the ice since the 80's. Edmonton's Connor McDavid leads the charge followed by a group that includes two American franchise players in Toronto's Auston Matthews and Buffalo's Jack Eichel who are not that far behind him.

Although the U.S. media has refrained from asking about things of a political nature, the 19 yr. old Matthews was lauded for his "well-spoken" take on the protest issue by writer Chris Johnston.

Matthews "hasn't considered taking a stand during the U.S. anthem," tweeted Johnston, but the U.S.-born superstar did ask rhetorically, "Isn't that one of the Amendments? You have the right to say what you want."

Perhaps that lone statement from a future superstar wrapped in a well thought out question is the beginnings of the NHL being drawn into the controversy.

Fellow American hockey player Blake Wheeler chimed in in a similar manner when he tweeted, "It's the First Amendment to our Constitution. The First one!!" and followed with, "Regardless of how it makes you feel individually, these are literally the principles the US was founded on. Come on, Mr. President."

The Penguins, however, decided that they would not be a part of the controversy by accepting the White House invitation. However, in doing so they just opened themselves up to criticism. "Colin Kaepernick has the right to kneel during the national anthem," began a piece by Luke Fox of

"Sidney Crosby has the right to feel honoured that Donald Trump invited him and his team to the White House.

"And you have the right to wake up feeling sick to your stomach that an athlete with great power squandered an opportunity to take a stand."

Crosby is the face of the NHL, a Canadian who will go down as one of the all-time greats. He's here to play hockey, not make political statements. “Everyone’s got the right to go or not to go,” Crosby told reporters. “But we’ve been invited and we accepted the invitation. I don’t think you have to read into it any more than that.”

Regardless of what Crosby thinks of the apolitical nature of the invitation to the White House and the Penguins acceptance, it's now political. President Trump forced people to take a side and in accepting the invitation, especially during a polarizing weekend, the Penguins, however inadvertently, sided with Trump who took a moment to harken it as a triumph. "Please to inform that the Champion Pittsburgh Penguins of the NHL will be joining me at the White House for Ceremony," he tweeted. "Great team!"

I'd rather sports and politics be separate too, but that will never be the case again. There has always been an intertwining of the two but they really came together back in 1991 at Super Bowl XXV, 10 days into the Persian Gulf War. Years later 911 would make sports gatherings equally about patriotism and we'd soon see constant military fly-overs to begin a game and huge U.S. flags unfurled on the football field as well as the introduction of God Bless America with regularity.

Yet, despite all this, the flag represents an America that is special because of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. As was intimated by Matthews and outwardly said by Wheeler and a host of others from a large cross-section of Americans, we as Americans have the right to free speech which can take many forms and those documents are there not to protect the majority, but to protect the minority who's view would otherwise be shackled.

When the president takes the Oath of Office he "solemnly swears and will to the best of [his] Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

With no reference to the flag or the National Anthem, the way I read it, President Trump is sworn to protect the Colin Kaepernicks of this country.

Follow me on twitter @boosbuzzsabres

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Back to back vs. the Leafs. Notes and tonights Buffalo lineup

Published by, 9-22-2017

It's a big weekend in Buffalo as the Sabres take on the Toronto Maple Leafs in a back-to-back beginning tonight while the Buffalo Bills welcome the Denver Broncos to New Era Field in Orchard Park.

The Sabres are still working their way through preseason with Game-3 on tap tonight and a revamped preseason roster. Four players were sent back to their junior clubs this week:  Brandon Hagel (Red Deer Rebels, WHL) Vasily Glotov (Shawinigan Cataractes, QMJHL) Vojtech Budik (Prince Albert Raiders, WHL) and Austin Osmanski Mississauga Steelheads, OHL.)

One player in particular who wasn't sent down was Cliff Pu (London Knights, OHL.) Pu has been having a very strong camp to go along with an impressive Prospects Challenge Tournament, something that certainly got head coach Phil Housley's attention. "I think he's had a great camp and it started with development camp," Housley said to the media yesterday. "We like his grit, we want to see him in another game hopefully soon in the next two … It's intriguing, trying to see where he can fit in. I think he's had an excellent camp up to this point and he's getting rewarded for it."

Pu could very well be in the lineup tonight Jon Vogel speculates that Group A from yesterday's practice looks to get the call  this evening at Ricoh Coliseum in Toronto:

67 Benoit Pouliot - 90 Ryan O'Reilly - 25 Seth Griffith
22 Johan Larsson - 10 Jacob Josefson - 13 Nicholas Baptiste
71 Evan Rodrigues - 28 Zemgus Girgensons - 52 Stevie Moses
44 Nicolas Deslauriers - 12 Kevin Porter - 59 Cliff Pu

19 Jake McCabe - 5 Matt Tennyson
47 Zach Bogosian/93 Victor Antipin - 38 Cody Goloubef
41 Justin Falk - 27 Taylor Fedun

35 Linus Ullmark
32 Adam Wilcox
33 Jason Kasdorf

Some notes:

Johan Larsson moves from center to wing while Zemgus Girgensons moves from wing to center While Seth Griffith and Benoit Pouliot get to ride shotgun on Ryan O'Reilly's wing. The third line is intriguing as Rodrigues and Stevie Moses are on the wing for Girgensons while Justin Falk and Taylor Fedun, who were a very good pairing last season in Buffalo, are together again.

Gametime is 7:30 p.m.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Building the 2017-18 Buffalo Sabres roster--The Fourth Line

Published by, 9-21-2017

There are a lot of variables that need to play out in the top-nine before a fourth line can be established, most notably what coach Phil Housley wants to do with Sam Reinhart. Moving him to center would push Johan Larsson down a spot which and with Jason Pominville moving into Reinhart's spot in the top-six, a third-line right wing spot is open.

What Housley does with another forward will also dictate what happens on the fourth line.

LW, Zemgus Girgensons
6'2" 207 lbs.
23 yrs. old
2012, 14th-overall
Career stats:  277 games  |   37 goals  |  49 assists  |  86 points  |  -29

Housley has given Girgensons first crack at landing a spot in the top-six on a wing with Ryan O'Reilly and Kyle Okposo. The 6'2" 207 lb. native of Latvia has the speed and will to get the forecheck going and once he gets the puck on his stick along the boards, the opposition can't get it away from him.

Girgensons' trials and tribulations under former head coach Dan Bylsma have been well documented as had been his 15-goal season prior to Bylsma coming to Buffalo. All that has been changed now with Housley behind the bench. In Buffalo's first pre-season game against Carolina, Girgensons skated 18:38 with three of the line's eight shots on goal. Although they didn't hit the score sheet, that line spent an abundant amount of time in the offensive zone.

"I thought that line was terrific," said Housley post game to the gathered media. "They provided a lot of energy. When we needed a big shift, they gave it to us, they changed the momentum of the game."

Housley also pointed out that they had a lot of looks, however that line failed to hit the scoresheet.

Girgensons has the will and desire to make a difference in the top-six, but any offensive acumen he may have had seemed to get lost under Bylsma. A golden opportunity is right in front of him, and the only question is, does he have enough offensive acumen to stick in that top-six role?

C, Jacob Josefson
6'0" 196 lbs.
26 yrs. old
2009, 20th-overall (NJD)
Signed by Buffalo in 2017.
Career stats:  276 games |  18 goals |  42 assists  |  60 points  |  -17

A Reinhart move back to center will directly affect Jacob Josefson as it means he's probably in the pressbox.

Josefson was signed by the Sabres in the off season as a depth move as GM Jason Botterill and were not sure what we have yet in him. The 26 yr. old center was labeled "an enigma" by Amanda Rosko of The Hockey Writers back in November, 2015. She wrote that he "exhibits a solid skill-set" but lacks "physicality and finish" and goes on to perpetuate the curious case of Jacob Josefson when she writes, "the mystery continues when a person examines Josefson’s shootout record and ability. When number 16 takes the ice for the Devils, it is almost automatically assumed that he will beat the oppositional goaltender regardless of whom it is when the game goes beyond 65-minutes. He excels and stands out in the skills competition."

The past five seasons Josefson has gone 11/20 (55%) in the shootout and is tops in the league over that period for players with 20 or more shootout attempts. The Sabres were 25th in the league scoring at a 22% rate (6/27) last season.

RW, Matt Moulson
33 yrs. old
6'1" 203 lbs.
2003, 9th round (263rd-overall, PIT)
Signed by Buffalo to a five year FA contract in 2014

Career stats:  636 games  |  176 goals  |  193 assists  |  369 points  |  -33

Forward Matt Moulson has had a rough for the better part of his three seasons in Buffalo as he's not been able to regain his 30-goal form from his time with the NY Islanders.

Moulson's first season in Buffalo was promising as he totaled 41 points (13+28) on Buffalo's top line for an offensively inept Sabres team. However he's had trouble in the two seasons since. In 2015-16, under Bylsma, he fell down the depth chart in large part due to improper off-season conditioning. He came back in much better shape, and with a renewed desire last season, but was relegated to powerplay specialist status as 11 of his 14 goals came with the man advantage.

He has two years left on his contract with a $5 million cap-hit. Buying him out would have been impractical this season but next year may be a different story.
Moulson is a great guy, who even took rookie Jack Eichel into his home to help him adjust. However, the speed of the game may have passed him by.

Building the 2017-18 Buffalo Sabres roster:

LW, Evander Kane / C, Jack Eichel / RW, Sam Reinhart
LW, Benoit Pouliot / C, Ryan O'Reilly / RW, Kyle Okposo
LW, Evan Rodrigues / C, Johan Larsson / RW, Jason Pominville

D, Marco Scandella / D, Rasmus Ristolainen
D, Jake McCabe / D, Zach Bogosian
D, Nathan Beaulieu / D, Victor Antipin

G, Robin Lehner
G, Chad Johnson

Follow me on twitter @boosbuzzsabres

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Building the 2017-18 Buffalo Sabres roster--G, Chad Johnson

Published by, 9-20-2017

Chad Johnson
31 yrs. old
6'3" 196 lbs.
2006, 5th round (125th overall, PIT)
2017 Free Agent

Career stats:  137 games  |  68-45-12 record  |  2.44 GAA  |  .915 Sv%  |  7 shutouts

I’m not sure the Sabres could ask for a better backup goaltender right now. When GM Jason Botterill signed Chad Johnson on July 1, he got himself a very capable backup who’s proven to be competent no matter how many games he’s called on to play.

Case in point.

In the very first game of the 2015-16 season with Buffalo ready to come out from the league cellar, Johnson was thrust into the role of starter when Robin Lehner suffered a high-ankle sprain. Johnson calmly took the reigns of a team trying to find it's way with a new head coach, a boat-load of new players and a new system. Lehner would return in mid-January but end up being shut down for the season after appearing in 20 games since coming back from injury.

Johnson appeared in a career high 45 games for the Sabres that season establishing another career-high in wins. He finished the season with a 22-16-4 record, a 2.36 GAA and .920 Sv% which were 15th and 13th in the league, respectively, for goalies appearing in 40 or more games. At the end of the season he signed a one-year deal with his hometown Calgary Flames, who at the time had no incumbent starter.

The Flames signed Johnson to back up Brian Elliott, whom they acquired from St. Louis in a 2016 draft day deal. Elliott would flame-out early in the season giving Johnson an opportunity to take the No. 1 spot in Calgary. By mid-December Johnson was in complete control of the job sporting a 13-4-1 record with a .932 Sv%. However that would fall apart as Elliott regained his form and took his starters role back from Johnson.

On July 1, the very first thing new GM Botterill did in free agency was to sign Johnson to a rather large $2.5 million for one season. Among the things the signing did was provide insurance move as Lehner was a restricted free agent with arbitration rights who still had only on full season as a starter while also allowing third-year pro, Linus Ullmark, one more full season of development in Rochester.

 "We wanted to, instead of having a situation where some things beyond our control happen and it becomes a point of weakness, we wanted to have it as a position of strength," Botterill said at the end of a busy start to free agency. "And I think if you look at our one-two-three right now, it's a strength of our organization."

It should be remembered that Botterill was thrown right into the fire upon his May 11th hiring. He left his associate GM position with the Pittsburgh Penguins and immediately had to find a new head coach, tackle the upcoming NHL Entry Draft and the Vegas Golden Knights expansion draft while also getting primed for free agency which included getting up to speed on his new roster as well as looking to fill holes, most notably on defense. It's really not all that surprising that after bringing in three new defensemen, the first thing he did was land a capable back-up right off the bat.

For his part, Johnson was thrilled to be back with the Sabres. “I see the organization going in the right direction," he said on a conference call July 1. "They’re committed to winning." There also was a familiarity having been only one year removed from the club. And he said he's got some "unfinished business."

“I won a lot of games and had good numbers so I think being able to come back and be a part of the organization again and to have that drive to win and get back in the playoffs is special for me. I always felt like there was unfinished business."

There is a strong sense in Buffalo and around the league that the Sabres are in the upswing again and although the playoffs might be out of reach, any hope of making a post season push will depend upon every player not only carrying their weight, but going above and beyond the call of duty.

It's something Johnson is well prepared for and something he's proven to be capable of.

Building the 2017-18 Buffalo Sabres roster:

LW, Evander Kane / C, Jack Eichel / RW, Sam Reinhart
LW, Benoit Pouliot / C, Ryan O'Reilly / RW, Kyle Okposo
LW, Evan Rodrigues / C, Johan Larsson / RW, Jason Pominville

D, Marco Scandella / D, Rasmus Ristolainen
D, Jake McCabe / D, Zach Bogosian
D, Nathan Beaulieu / D, Victor Antipin

G, Robin Lehner


Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Eichel and the Sabres head to Pegula Ice Arena at Penn St.

Published by 9-18-2017

With one group of Sabres coming off of a 3-2 overtime loss vs. the Carolina Hurricanes last night, another group had their equipment packed for a trip to Pegula Ice Arena at Penn State University. The complex (pictured below) is named after Sabres owner, and Penn St. alum, Terry Pegula who made a very generous donation of over $100 million to start up D-1 Men's and Women's hockey programs for the Nittany Lions.

After selling his East Resources for billions, Pegula started his hockey mission with the donation to his alma mater in Fall, 2010. That donation got the ball rolling for Penn State's D-1 hockey programs with the men's team making big strides. Last season they earned a spot in the 2017 NCAA tournament after winning the Big-10 Championsip Tournament. They won their first game 10-3 over Union with the 10 goals being the most scored in the Frozen Four Tourney since 1990.

This is the second of what looks to be an annual preseason game for the Sabres. Last year the Minnesota Wild traveled to Happy Valley and defeated the Sabres on a powerplay goal by Jason Zucker with :05 seconds left in regulation.

The Pittsburgh Penguins are coming off of their second consecutive Stanley Cup and will be headed to Penn State without a number of their stars including Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel. Buffalo on the other hand will have Jack Eichel and Evander Kane playing in their first preseason game of the year. Newly acquired defensemen Nathan Beaulieu and Victor Antipin will be making their Sabres debuts tonight. Also, Jason Pominville will be donning the Blue and Gold for the first time since 2013 when he was traded to Minnesota.

Buffalo's lineup for tonight is set to start like this (via

9 Evander Kane - 15 Jack Eichel - 29 Jason Pominville
26 Matt Moulson - 22 Johan Larsson - 24 Hudson Fasching
25 Seth Griffith - 10 Jacob Josefson - 13 Nicholas Baptiste
44 Nicolas Deslauriers - 12 Kevin Porter - 95 Justin Bailey

82 Nathan Beaulieu - 47 Zach Bogosian
41 Justin Falk - 93 Victor Antipin
4 Josh Gorges - 5 Matt Tennyson

31 Chad Johnson
32 Adam Wilcox

Some notes:

--The 26-22-24 line looks like it could be a complete third or fourth line this season should coach Phil Housley decide to keep Sam Reinhart at center.
--Jason Pominville riding shotgun with Eichel and Kane looks very interesting. Can he and his 34 yr. old body keep up?
--Matt Tennyson had a couple of goals in the scrimmage yesterday, taking advantage of the open ice afford the players in the four-on-four format
--As mentioned in our Victor Antipin piece, the lefty has the ability to play both side of the rink and he'll be on the right side tonight, which is where he played in the scrimmage yesterday.
--Seth Griffith gets his second preseason game in a row as he had a goal and was a +1 in 12:01 of ice-time last night vs. the Hurricanes.

And today is International Talk Like a Pirate Day.


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Sabres preseason begins tonight vs. CAR. Lineup + storylines

Published by hockeybuzz, 9-18-2017

The Buffalo Sabres open up their preseason with a visit from the Carolina Hurricanes tonight. As with every preseason opener the ice will have a number of youngins that went through training camp and will get a taste of the NHL before being sent to their proper developmental leagues. A handful of vets will be on hand to work through the game and one can bet there will be a surprise player or two that will pique our interest.

This morning the Sabres held a intrasquad scrimmage featuring some four-on-four action, a little three-on-three and two shootouts. The shootout portion was interesting as each team had five pucks at center ice and when the whistle blew they sent a player towards the net. If the player scored he headed to the bench and the next player grabbed the another puck at center ice. If the player didn't score he had to retrieve the puck and bring it back to center ice before his teammate could take the next turn. It was fun to watch save for the center-ice camera which couldn't keep up even when the players were at opposite parts of their shootout.

Those playing in the scrimmage this morning will not be playing tonight and that included names like Jack Eichel, Evander Kane, Marco Scandella, Nathan Beaulieu, Jason Pominville and Victor Antipin. But there will be plenty of intrigue as the Sabres ice this lineup (from

28 Zemgus Girgensons - 90 Ryan O'Reilly - 21 Kyle Okposo
67 Benoit Pouliot - 23 Sam Reinhart - 52 Stevie Moses
49 C.J. Smith - 51 Kyle Criscuolo - 95 Justin Bailey
25 Seth Griffith - 71 Evan Rodrigues - 59 Cliff Pu

45 Brendan Guhle - 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
19 Jake McCabe - 27 Taylor Fedun
8 Casey Nelson - 38 Cody Goloubef

40 Robin Lehner
35 Linus Ullmark

New head coach Phil Housley talked to the gathered media today and said that 19 yr. old Cliff Pu "earned a game tonight due to a strong Prospects Challenge Tournament. Pu will be skating on a line with former London Knights winger Seth Griffith and according to Kris Baker of, the Knights open up their season on Friday so it looks like a one-and-done for him with Buffalo.

Also intriguing is Zemgus Girgensons on the top line with Ryan O'Reilly and Kyle Okposo. As has been mentioned before, there's a big hole on the left side after Evander Kane and Girgensons gets first crack at landing it. The former 15-goal scorer was moved down the lineup by former coach  Dan Bylsma but as was pointed out by Jon Vogl of The Buffalo News, "Botterill included him on the seven-forward protected list, then signed Girgensons to a two-year, $3.2 million contract in August."

And now Housley's giving him a whale of an opportunity on tonight's top line. "It's new coaches, new management, so I think it's fresh start for everyone," Girgensons said in HarborCenter. "You can't come in thinking that you have a spot. You have to prove it in the practice, off the ice, so I think it's good for everyone."

As we take a look at the defense, I'm sure there are Sabres fans drooling at the Rasmus Ristolainen/Brendan Guhle pairing, as this could be a glimpse into the future. Guhle has been having a extraordinary camp and is pressing hard for a spot with the Sabres on opening night. Both can get up ice and look to be ideal fits for the way Housley wants his team to play. Ristolainen is 22 yrs. old and Guhle is only 20.

Sam Reinhart is at center as Housley wants to get a good look at him in his natural position. If he move there for good, that opens up a huge opportunity on the right of Eichel and Kane. Pominville looks to get first crack at that during the preseason which means a third-line spot will be open. Free agent Stevie Moses and 2013 second-round draft pick Justin Bailey are looking to impress tonight while Hudson Fasching and Nicolas Baptiste skating tomorrow night.

Taylor Fedun, who had a very solid 27-game stint with Buffalo last season seems like exactly the type of strong skater and puck-mover Housley wants on his blueline and former second round pick Cody Goloubef is simply looking to land a job. The right-shot d-man attended training camp on a tryout as is the only player skating with the team who doesn't have a contract.

The game is radio only.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Building the 2017-18 Buffalo Sabres roster--D, Nathan Beaulieu

Published by, 9-17-2017

Nathan Beaulieu
24 yrs. old
6'2" 205 lbs.
2011, 17th-overall (MTL) Acquired by Buffalo on June 17, 2017

Career stats:  225 goals  |  7 goals  |  53 assists  |  60 points  |  +19

Defenseman Nathan Beaulieu was taken 17th-overall by the Montreal Canadians in the 2011 NHL Draft. He was drafted to be an "offensive-defenseman," according to Chris Bordeleau of, a d-man who's "a good skater, good puck-mover...has a good shot and is very poised with the puck."

Heading into the draft, the left-shot Beaulieu was coming off of an impressive draft season with the Saint John Sea Dogs of the QMJHL where he had his second consecutive 45-point season on the exact same totals of 12 goals and 33 assists. He was also a plus-44, which was one point better than the previous season, and he finished off the year as Memorial Cup Champion with the Sea Dogs. Although projected as a top-10 pick, Beaulieu falling to No. 17 was an "unexpected gift" for Montreal, according to Andrew Berkshire of the Habs site, EyesOnThePrize.

"Most scouting reports agree that Beaulieu's strongest assets are his skating ability and offensive instincts," wrote Berkshire in his Montreal draft review, "although he is guilty of forcing plays at times when there isn't one to be had. In fact in many respects Beaulieu seems very similar to another Habs prospect we have all come to love over the last few years: P.K. Subban."

Beaulieu finished his junior career by upping his point total to 52 (11+41) in only 53 games his final season and began to ply his trade with Montreal's AHL affiliate, the Hamilton Bulldogs, in 2012-13. He had a banner rookie season as a pro scoring 31 (7+24) points for Hamilton and earned a call to the big club for six regular season games. The following season he would have another solid campaign (7+20) and after playing in 13 regular season games for the Habs he made the post-season roster  appearing in seven playoff games for Montreal. This was a nice progression for Beaulieu and after eight games with Hamilton in 2014-15, he said goodbye to the AHL.

Yet, unbeknownst to Beaulieu changes would be coming to Montreal and with blotches on his Canadiens' career beginning to show, he found himself on the trading block eventually ending up with the Buffalo Sabres.

In April, 2013 Beaulieu and his father were involved in an incident at a post-golf party that brought assault charges against each of them. Four months later they both pleaded guilty to the charges. The word 'party' would follow Beaulieu again two years later in December, 2015 as a video was posted of him and teammate Chris Thomas, "partying the night away" following a loss that night to the Carolina Hurricanes. Thomas was traded ten days later and although the Habs claim there was no correlation between the incident and the trade, speculative dots were being connected.

A month later star forward Alex Galchenyuk was in the news for a domestic incident with his girlfriend who was arrested on a Sunday morning. Although the Beaulieu/Thomas and Galchenyuk incidents might not be related, Habs blogger Brandon Smillie pointed to rumors that "Beaulieu's party life was sucking Galchenyuk into it as well."

The 2015-16 season was a very stressful one for the Canadiens as they lost Vezina-winning goalie Carey Price to a season-ending injury very early that season. Despite that, the Habs were at the top of the NHL standings heading into December but by mid-month (just after the Beaulieu/Thomas video) they were in the beginnings of a tailspin that would eventually cause them miss the playoffs. After a tumultuous season, Subban was traded to the Nashville Predators in a shocking one-for-one deal for Shea Weber of the Nashville Predators.

More changes were to follow this past season as Habs coach Michel Therrien was fired and replaced by Claude Julien on February 14. Beaulieu, who had started out the season with appearances on the top-pairing with Weber slowly fell down the depth chart. He went to the third pairing and then was a healthy scratch late in the season and for the final game of their first round playoff loss to the NY Rangers.

On May 17, former NHL'er Georges Laraque said (via GoHabsGo) that "the Montreal Canadiens have decided to trade both Alex Galchenyuk and Nathan Beaulieu over the summer." He noted that "the two youngsters have been involved in several controversies over the last few months due to some elements of their lives outside the rink and it is well known that the Habs organization has very thin patience when it comes to outside the rink incidents."

A month later, on June 17, Beaulieu was traded to the Sabres.

All of this is not to bag on Beaulieu for what he does on his own time, nor is it meant to lay the blame for the Habs decline on any or all mentioned above (save for the loss of Price to injury.) It's simply laid out to give some background as to why the Sabres were able to trade a third round pick for Beaulieu in June, just prior to the expansion draft.

According to Smillie, Beaulieu looked like a real solid top-four defender who could get you 25-30 points and was a fairly tough customer. Ironically, last season was his best pro season (4 goals, 24 assists, +8) despite falling down the depth chart and ending up in the new head coach's dog house.

Lucky for Buffalo, Beaulieu fell into the Sabres lap when they really needed to upgrade their defense-corps. He was the second of three d-men brought in by new GM Jason Botterill as he tries to revamp the Sabres defense with more mobile, puck movers. He's an NHL defender and when he's able to play his game, he looks the part of a top-four defender, which is what the Sabres were in need of.

For Beaulieu the trade to the Sabres was an opportunity for a fresh start. "I'm not going to get into too much about Montreal," he said after the trade. "I'm focused on Buffalo.

"I've got a huge opportunity to re-grow my game with a guy [in Buffalo head coach Phil Housley] who played the game similarly to the way I would like to play it."

Beaulieu signed a two-year contract with the Sabres this summer and although it's not a "prove-it" type deal in a "show me" type season for him, the onus is on him to do the work and focus his energies on his new team. There's a lot to learn and he'll be expected to play a solid role for the team somewhere in the bottom-four. I'm not sure if the "party-boy" label is true, but if he wants to reach his potential, it begins with an opportunity in Buffalo.

Like former Sabres GM Tim Murray once said, it's "not all rainbows, jujus and unicorns" with players. There are many who have warts and were not even sure what may or may not be true about Beaulieu's time in Montreal. We do know that on the ice he's  good-sized defenseman with great mobility who was drafted for his offensive prowess. He's still young at 24 yrs. old and props to the Canadiens for gradually working him through the system.

Should he work out, it will have benefitted the Sabres nicely.

Building the 2017-18 Buffalo Sabres roster:

LW, Evander Kane / C, Jack Eichel / RW, Sam Reinhart
LW, Benoit Pouliot / C, Ryan O'Reilly / RW, Kyle Okposo
LW, Evan Rodrigues / C, Johan Larsson / RW, Jason Pominville

D, Marco Scandella / D, Rasmus Ristolainen
D, Jake McCabe / D, Zach Bogosian
D, Nathan Beaulieu / D, Victor Antipin

G, Robin Lehner

Follow me on twitter @boosbuzzsabres

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Building the 2017-18 Buffalo Sabres roster--D, Victor Antipin

Published by, 9-16-2017

Buffalo Sabres fans, and probably most fans outside of the KHL, don't know much about defenseman Victor Antipin. From what we've read and what we've seen on a limited basis he has the skills and skating that will fit right in to what new coach Phil Housley wants to accomplish with his defensemen. After yesterday's first practice of training camp, Housley was impressed with the 24 yr. old rookie and native of Oskemen, Kazakhstan.

"He's a student of the game," said Housley in response to a media observation that Antipin didn't seem to have much of a problem understanding Housley's on-ice drills and concepts despite a bit of a language barrier. "He was talking a lot to our assistant coaches, mainly Chris Hajt, and he really absorbs a lot, likes to watch a lot of video trying to understand our concepts.

"He's like a sponge and it's great to see."

Kazakhstan is a country smack-dab in the middle of Central Asia with Russia bordering on the north and China on the south-east. Oskemen is a city in the northern part of the country that has produced a few notable NHL'ers like Nik Antropov selected 10th-overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1998, goalie Evgeni Nabakov (1994, 9th round) and goalie Anton Khudobin who was also selected in the ninth round in 1994 (MIN.)

The closest major hockey league for Kasakhstani players, of course, is the Kontinental Hockey League and Antipin got his first taste of the pros at the age of 17. Two years later he was playing full time in five full seasons with Magnitogorsk Metallurg and he posted 36 goals and added 62 assists in 264 games for the club. He also played for Team Russia internationally winning the 2012 World Junior silver medal and grabbing a silver and two bronze medals at the World Championships in 2015, 2016 and 2017, respectively.

North Americans watching the World Championships got to see what Antipin had to offer, but KHL insider Aivis Kalniņš, who now writes for, has known about Antipin for years. He gave WKBW's Matthew Bove a little insight into the then newly signed defensemen.

Antipin "is a passionate player," said Kalniņš, "who has a spark and willingness to go out there and prove that he belongs in the National Hockey league. A tiny guy with a huge heart." Kalniņš also called him a player with "a winning experience and overall fun guy."

What Antipin brings to the ice is skating, puck-moving ability, the knack for getting up ice and finding open spots as well as the ability to finish. It's a nice package, one that the Sabres were after while looking to revamp their defense-corps. "To me, he's the type of player that this organization needs to find a way to bring more in," said Sabres GM Jason Botterill on The Instigators Show just after Buffalo signed him. Botterill also gave props to he predecessor, Tim Murray who got the ball rolling months before.

By the end of June, Botterill had done just that by bringing in a couple more capable puck-movers in Nathan Beaulieu and Marco Scandella. While we're unsure where Beaulieu will ultimately land in the grand scheme of things, Scandella is slated to be anchoring the top pair with Rasmus Ristolainen.

Antipin signed with Buffalo largely because of opportunity. He has an out-clause that says he may return to Russia should he not be tabbed for the big club, but unless things go completely south, he'll have his opportunity to at least start on the bottom pairing. Kalniņš said that Antipin is "unlikely a top pair guy" but said his attributes should carry over to the NHL.

When Housley was asked what his first impressions of Antipin were, he said he thought all of his defensemen moved the puck well and that Antipin "was a terrific skater" that "reads well" and that as he becomes more accustomed to the NHL game, his reads "will become more aggressive, especially in the neutral zone." Which means stretch passes and jumping into the play when available.

Antipin is deft on the powerplay as well with Kalniņš saying he was "confident that one thing he will carry over will be his ability to be one of the best power play guys in the league." Buffalo had the top powerplay in the NHL last season converting on 24.5% of their opportunities with a top unit that's loaded. It would seem as if any PP time for Antipin would be on the second unit and there's a good possibility he could take over at the right point for Cody Franson who went unsigned by Buffalo, or even work the slot, which he's very capable of doing.

The cool part about Antipin's game is that he's a left-handed defenseman who can play either side, something that bodes well for the left-shot heavy Sabres d-corps. It's yet another feather in his cap.

The Sabres aren't exactly sure what they have in Antipin, but he has some very appealing on-ice attributes that fit very well with what they want to do. You can see some of that with these highlights of #9 courtesy Konstantin Glazov:" target="_blank"># 9 Viktor Antipin season 2016-17 Highlights
by" target="_blank">Konstantin_Glazov

Building the 2017-18 Buffalo Sabres roster:

LW, Evander Kane / C, Jack Eichel / RW, Sam Reinhart
LW, Benoit Pouliot / C, Ryan O'Reilly / RW, Kyle Okposo
LW, Evan Rodrigues / C, Johan Larsson / RW, Jason Pominville

D, Marco Scandella / D, Rasmus Ristolainen
D, Jake McCabe / D, Zach Bogosian
/ D, Victor Antipin

G, Robin Lehner

Follow me on twitter @boosbuzzsabres

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Quick reference guide to this year's Buffalo Sabres training camp invitees

Published by, 9-15-2017

It's always a long summer for sports without hockey, and the NFL and, dare I say it, the NBA as well. The summer is always about baseball and the luxury sports like golf and tennis and if your a Cleveland Indians fan, you've had the opportunity to focus upon their great play highlighted by an historic, and largely unfathomable, 22-game winning streak.

Cheers to them!

The Buffalo Sabres begin practice today with 51 players invited to training camp and here's a quick note on each player.


RW, Justin Bailey (2013, 52nd-overall)--Is said to have added upper body strength to a powerforward frame. Has a good shot at making the Sabres out of camp but really needs to work on his finish. He showed it in junior and also in Rochester, but it's time he brings it to the NHL.

RW, Nicholas Baptiste (2013, 69th)--If Sam Reinhart is moved to center, Baptiste  has the best odds at getting the call to skate on Jack Eichel's right wing. The 22 yr. old can skate and he can shoot using a variety of shots to score at any area of the offensive zone. He took a huge step last season in Rochester (25 goals and 16 assists in 56 games) and will be looking to progress even further with the Amerks should he not make the Sabres.

RW, Eric Cornel (2014, 44th)--The two-way center with some giddy-up to his skating still has a lot of work to do, but he did show progress in Rochester last season.

C, Kyle Criscuolo (2017, FA)--Sabres GM Jason Botterill fortified his AHL team this off season and Criscuolo is a big part of that. The speedy center with plenty of hockey smarts finished his first full season with 41 points (17+24) in 76 games for the Grand Rapids Griffins (DET) and should bring that (and hopefully more) to the Amerks this season.

LW, Nicolas Deslauriers (2009, 8th, LAK)--Didn't have the best of seasons in 2016-17 and it looks as if he'll be spending a lot of time in the press box this season.

C, Jack Eichel (2015, 2nd)--Said at presser yesterday that he's yet to prove anything despite leading the team in scoring last season while missing 21 games. Some have him as a point/game player. Sabres just want to get him signed long-term.

RW, Hudson Fasching (2013, 118th, LAK)--Made the team out of camp last season, but was injured. Has a good shot of making the Sabres once again, albeit because of his skating, probably in a bottom-six role.

LW, Zemgus Girgensons (2012, 14th)--What will this season be like for Girgensons? He had two good seasons as a teenager then two poor ones under former coach Dan Bylsma. He'll be in the forward group somewhere.

RW, Vasily Glotov (2016, 190th)--Has a home with as an overage import, but continues to impress every time he hits the ice in Buffalo's camps. One to keep an eye on this season in Juniors.

LW, Seth Griffith (2012, 131st, BOS)--Another player signed by Botterill to bolster the Amerks. Griffith as proven he can score at the AHL-level with 202 points (66+136) in 203 games but that prowess hasn't transferred to the NHL yet (six goals, 10 assists in 56 games.)

LW, Brandon Hagel (2016, 159th)--Hagel tore it up for the Red Deer Rebels last season which included a six-point game last season. The 19 yr. old "tenacious bulldog," as described by Kris Baker of, will be headed back to junior for his third season.

C, Jacob Josefson (2009, 20th, NJD)--The 2017 free agent signee was brought in by GM Jason Botterill to help solidify the fourth line and his shootout prowess won't hurt either.

LW, Evander Kane (2009, 4th, ATL)--Heads into his third full season with the Sabres behind a smile that says he's ready to go. Lead the team last season with 28 goals (25 at even strength) and is in a contract year. Should make for a very productive Kane on the ice, but most will have one eye on what happens with him off the ice as well.

RW, Vaclav Karabacek (2014, 49th)--Before labeling this 6'0" 196 lb. winger a bust, it should be pointed out that he had injury problems in his first pro season with Rochester and, second-rounder's shouldn't be considered a bust in the first place.

C, Johan Larsson (2010, 56th, MIN)--Was having a strong 2016-17 season before a crash into the boards ended it. Will be doing his gadfly-thing while centering the third or fourth line depending what they do with Reinhart.

C, Sean Malone (2013, 159th)--Harvard Crimson graduate may have had a great shot at centering the fourth line were Josefson not signed but will get a good year of seasoning in Rochester

RW, Stevie Moses (Undrafted FA)--The University of New Hampshire graduate put up record-breaking numbers in the KHL (36 goals, 21 assists in 60 games) in 2015, was singed then released by Nashville and spent the last two seasons back in the KHL. Interesting signing if he can regain his form.

LW, Matt Moulson (2003, 193rd, PIT)--Most get why he was signed to a long-term deal, even at that price, but with skating a real issue for Moulson in today's NHL, he's become a powerplay specialist (and a good one at that.) This could be his last season in Buffalo unless he really kicks it up a notch or two.

LW, Alexander Nylander (2016, 8th)--His showing in the first Prospects Challenge game this year may have punched his ticket to Rochester. Not that it was bad by any means, but the highly skilled winger failed to supremely impress and had an injury ta boot. Another year with the Amerks, or at least a start there, while adjusting to his increased bulk, is a good thing despite what he and others might think.

C, Ryan O'Reilly (2009, 33rd, COL)--About the only thing we don't know about him for this season is whether he'll be wearing an 'A' or a 'C'. Everything else about him we know and like very much.

RW, Kyle Okposo (2006, 7th, NYI)--With April's health scare over, Okposo is ready to move on, more than likely on O'Reilly's wing again more than likely scoring 25 goals or so in a full season.

RW, Jason Pominville (2001, 55th)--The former Sabres captain is back in the fold after an off-season trade with Minnesota. Third line RW with some PP and PK duties seems ideal. Doesn't need to wear a letter to be a leader but may get one anyway.

C, Kevin Porter (2004, 119th, PHX)--Porter is another one who's back in the fold. The 31 yr. old spent the last two seasons in the Pittsburgh organization while the Penguins were busy winning back-to-back Stanley Cups. It would seem as if Rochester has it's captain.

LW, Benoit Pouliot (2005, 4th, MIN)--Botterill mentioned Pouliot being able to play up and down the left side in any of the bottom three wing slots. He also mentioned that Pouliot has the tendency to bounce back from off seasons. The Sabres and their fans are hoping the latter is indeed true and that he can hold the fort in a top-nine/top-six role for the club.

C, Cliff Pu (2016, 69th)--Pu had a great Prospects Challenge and caught the eye of new head coach Phil Housley. Leading the London Knights and making Team Canada's World Junior team are the first things on his docket this season, but the future looks really bright for this 6'2" 192 lb. two-way center who won't turn 20 yrs. old until June.

RW, Sam Reinhart (2014, 2nd)--Reinhart's been largely underappreciated despite him adapting to different roles. In 2015-16 he was moved to wing and was Buffalo's net-front presence on the first powerplay unit. He scored 23 goals that year as a rookie. Last year he played a lot of center registering 30 assists. How will Housley use him? We're not quite sure yet.

C, Evan Rodrigues (2015, FA)--May have one of the best opportunities to make the Sabres if he ends up on the wing, which is where he rode shotgun with Eichel in college and where he started his pro career. He's a versatile forward who uses his skill anywhere on the line but was playing center last season. If that's the case this year, he'll probably end up in Rochester.

LW, C.J. Smith (2017, FA)--Smith also has a good shot at making the club on the left side. Although he only played two games for the Sabres he never looked out of place. However, there's a big difference between being playing at the end of the season on a non-playoff team and starting the season with every team gunning for the playoffs.


Victor Antipin (2017 FA)--The Sabres began courting Antipin under former GM Tim Murray and Botterill finished the job. The Sabres defense was in serious need of an upgrade and the KHL free agent saw an opportunity in Buffalo so there was a match. Bonus points for the Sabres is that the left-handed Antipin can play the right side without a hitch.

Nathan Beaulieu (2011, 17th, MTL)--Another defenseman brought in to bolster a weak blueline. Beaulieu had some time playing on Montreal's top pairing before sliding down the depth chart and into the pressbox. The Sabres see him as a top-six defenseman with upside and odds are he makes the starting group on defense.

Zach Bogosian (2008, 3rd, ATL)--Was it the coach? Or was it Bogosian? That's the question that will be answered this season. Bogosian has three years remaining on his contract and probably won't be headed anywhere this season or next, barring an unlikely trade scenario. This a big year for him. Maybe he'll get lucky and play close to a full season, something he hasn't done in eight years.

Vojtech Budik (2016, 130th)--Attended the Czech World Junior Summer Camp and has him as a favorite to be a top-four d-man for the team.

Justin Falk (2007, 110th, MIN)--Lost in the need to upgrade the defense was the really solid play of Falk last season. The stay-at-home d-man with decent wheels will more than likely be anchoring the defense in Rochester to help steady a group that will have many new faces.

Taylor Fedun (Undrafted FA)--Another one who got bumped down the depth chart with Buffalo's off season moves. The puck-moving Fedun seems like a Housley-type of defenseman as he looked the part in 27 games for the Sabres last year. He could surprise should someone falter, but a Falk/Fedun tandem in Rochester would be a great thing for the Amerks.

Cody Goloubef (2008, 37th, CBJ)--Tweener defenseman is the only player in camp invited on a pro tryout. He'll add depth to the organization should he be signed.

Josh Gorges (Undrafted FA)--Gorges is a trooper, a consummate pro who leaves it all out on the ice. He's in the final year of his deal and his type of rugged defensive game may have relegated him to a reserve role this season. Props to him for shouldering the weight of some atrocious seasons while the team was at the bottom of the league.

Brendan Guhle (2015, 51st)--Guhle just keeps on turning heads every time he hits the ice in Buffalo dating back to his first training camp in 2015 when he looked to have made the team, or at least had a nine-game audition, prior to an injury. He played three games for Buffalo last season and never looked out of place and had a glorious Prospects Challenge Tournament. Of all the youngins, he may have the best shot at making the club.

Brycen Martin (2014, 74th)--The big 6'2" 212 lb. third round pick has some work to do if he wants to make the Amerks this year. Martin spent his rookie year split between Rochester and the Elmira Jackals last season. Although he shouldn't be written off, his goal needs to be a spot in Rochester's top-six.

Jake McCabe (2012, 44th)--McCabe has a history with Housley that dates back to the 2013 gold medal-winning Jr. Team of which McCabe was the captain. There is some offensive upside lurking within the 23 yr. old defenseman and one would think that Housley can help bring that out.

Casey Nelson (2016, FA)--A lot was expected of Nelson after a strong seven-game Sabres debut in 2016. He took a big step back after making the team last season but regained his footing in Rochester as the year progressed.

Austin Osmanski (2016, 189th)--The East Aurora native is out to prove that he wasn't just a token pick by his hometown team. Osmanski has great size (6'3" 196 lbs.,) can skate pretty well and has some offensive attributes but at a seventh-rounder he's a project player. He'll be headed back to Mississauga for his third season with the Steelheads.

Rasmus Ristolainen (2013, 8th)--While there are many in media and across the NHL who think Ristolainen will definitively anchor Buffalo's defense this year and for years to come, the analytics community remains unconvinced. Yet at 22 yrs. old and with 273 games under his belt playing mostly against the best the opposition has to offer, the Big Finn is still growing into his role and still has plenty of upside.

Marco Scandella (2008, 55th, MIN)--The trade for Scandella cost the Sabres two roster players and a pick and added Pominville's $5.6 million salary to the cap for the next two seasons. But Botterill believes a strong skating defensive-defenseman like Scandella can anchor the top pairing and having him there should allow Ristolainen more offensive freedom then he had last season.

Devante Stephens (2015, 122nd)--Without the additions by Botterill this off season, Stephens would have been moved up the depth chart to what may have ended up being an uncomfortable slot in Rochester. He's very mobile, has definitive offensive acumen and is very smart on the ice as he seems to make the right passes every time. But he's transitioning to the pros and that will involve some adjustments.

Matt Tennyson (Undrafted FA)--Tennyson is another vet added that will be ticketed for Rochester. The AHL/NHL tweener spent 45 games with the Carolina Hurricanes last season and finished with a minus-13 rating. In nine games for their AHL affiliate, the Charlotte Checkers, Tennyson had seven points (3+4) and was a plus-7.


Jonas Johansson (2014, 61st)--The Sabres have their organizational depth chart set and Johansson would have began his rookie campaign as Linus Ullmark's back up were it not for the signing of Adam Wicox. Johansson got his feet wet last season playing in seven games for Rochester behind a rather weak Amerks club and it looks like his rookie season will be in Cincinnati with new ECHL affiliate, the Cyclones.

Chad Johnson (2006, 125th, PIT)--Bringing back Chad Johnson was big for the club in that he's an on-the-cusp starter who's professionalism allows him to positively play a back-up role. Should anything happen to starter Robin Lehner on a long-term basis, like what happened in 2015-16, Johnson is more than capable of carrying the load.

Jason Kasdorf (2011, 157th, WPG)--Kasdorf has yet to adapt to the pro game and looks to be slated for backup duty in Cincinnati.

Robin Lehner (2009, 46th, OTT)--Lehner said he really has nothing left to prove to the organization and signed a one-year deal as a restricted free agent. Last season he proved that he could handle the starters role while also playing the part of duck in a shooting gallery. He has his flaws but he's right in that he doesn't have anything to prove. Except for that shootout save percentage which was 0% (0/8.)

Linus Ullmark (2012, 163rd)--Ullmark got peppered last season in net for the Amerks but he weathered it rather nicely. One of the cool things about bringing in Johnson was that Ullmark can spend another season in Rochester fine-tuning his pro game while being the No. 1 and in a year or two, if he develops properly, we could be looking at the Sabres next starting goalie.

Adam Wilcox (2011, 178th, TBL)--Having the former Hobey Baker finalist as a backup to Ullmark in Rochester will allow Johansson to get plenty of playing time in Cincinnati.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Building the 2017-18 Buffalo Sabres roster--RW, Jason Pominville

Published by, 9-14-2017

Jason Pominville
34 yrs. old
6'0" 180 lbs.
2001, 2nd round (55th-overall)
Re-acquired by Buffalo from the Minnesota Wild on June 30, 2017

Career stats:  905 games  |  261 goals  |  401 assists  |  662 points  |  +65

One by one, then Buffalo Sabres GM Darcy Regier was trading away his veteran players beginning in 2012. Core players Paul Gaustad and Derek Roy were traded that year then prior to the 2013 NHL trade deadline, veteran defensemen Jordan Leopold and Robyn Regehr were traded away. The change everyone in Buffalo had been clamoring for had begun but up until the April 3, 2012 trade deadline, there hadn't been an earth-shattering trade at the foot of Washington Street. However, that would change with a bombshell that clearly announced the Sabres were stripping away the core and heading into full rebuild-mode as on that day the Sabres traded team captain Jason Pominville to the Minnesota Wild.

Pominville was drafted by Buffalo in 2001 with the 55th-overall pick and was waived by the team at the beginning of the 2005-06 season after scoring 78 goals and adding 89 assists in 217 games for the Rochester Americans, but cleared and was sent minors. He joined the Sabres in the middle of that season and tallied 30 points (18+12) in 57 games leaving fans to wonder a.) why did the Sabres expose him to waivers? and b.) why didn't anyone claim him?

The 6'0" 280 lb. Repentigny, Quebec native ended up having a steady 578-game career in with the Sabres that included dependable play where he missed only nine games in his first full six seasons. Pominville also turned into a very consistent offensive contributor that never scored less than 20 goals or had less than 52 points those years before the trade. In 2011-12, his last full season in Buffalo, he had a career-high 73 points (30+43.) He also had a fan club in the stands with young girls holding "Marry Me" signs and even his own "Population of Pominville" section on the 300 level.

However, despite how popular and respected he was, the Sabres were going through a complete rebuild in 2013, no veteran player was safe and he was moved for quite the bounty. Regier was able to get a 2013 first round pick, a 2014 second round pick and prospects Johan Larsson and Matt Hackett for Pominville and a 2014 fourth-rounder.

Those Minnesota years are now over for Pominville with his return to Buffalo as the secondary part of a trade that brought defenseman Marco Scandella to the Sabres. The Wild needed to clear his $5.6 million cap-hit for the next two seasons so Pominville became a necessary piece in the deal. He finished the Wild portion of his career with 76 goals and 130 assists in 327 games.

Pominville Is now 34 yrs. old and the days of him playing a full-time, top-six role are pretty much over. But he's still very capable of filling in on the top-six when necessary while taking a regular spot playing third-line minutes. And he can continue playing an all-around game with time on the second powerplay unit and contributing to the penalty kill.

Buffalo did Minnesota a favor by taking on Pominville's salary, but if they wanted Scandella, that was the deal. However, GM Jason Botterill was asked by's Brian Duff if it was "fair to say that this isn't just a case of trading numbers to make the salary cap work."

"Without a doubt," replied Botterill about Pominville being a benefit to the club. "You look at what he produced even-strength last year without huge minutes (13 goals, 27 assists) and we all know his success on the powerplay, whether first unit or second unit, he's going to bring an element there.

"And just from a pure leadership standpoint," continued Botterill, "knowing this organization, knowing this city and the passion-level for the Sabres, I think he's going to fit in extremely well. Jason's not the most vocal guy, but just his mannerisms, preparing for practice, preparing for games, and his work ethic I think will add to our culture here."

So true.

Pominville exudes professionalism on the ice and in the dressing room, not unlike Ryan O'Reilly, and it wouldn't be surprising to see either or both of them with a letter sewn on their sweater. Will Pominville wear a 'C' like when the Sabres traded him?

Sure, it's possible, maybe even probable if the team is looking for him to fill the same role that departed captain Brian Gionta had last season. Gionta proved to be somewhat ageless while playing the third-line right wing role for the Sabres and finished seventh on the team in scoring with 15 goals and 20 assists in 82 games. He lead the team with the same style and leadership characteristics we find in Pominville.

It's not that hard to fathom Pominville with a letter, but one would think that the Sabres might be ready to move on from that quiet, professional, aged veteran wearing the 'C' while looking to the future with a younger player as captain. Maybe the 26 year old O'Reilly or even going all in with 20 yr. old Jack Eichel.

Regardless of who's wearing letters, Pominville will always be Pominville and he's going to be a great influence on the youngins and how they approach the game both on and off the ice.

That's a good thing.

For (probably) the next two seasons we'll be seeing him ply his trade on the right side of the forward group taking players like Sam Reinhart, Johan Larsson, Evan Rodrigues, Nicolas Baptiste and C.J. Smith under his wing and teaching them the finer points of playing the game. They'll be able to learn a lot from him and one would think that the Sabres will be a better team because of it.

Building the 2017-18 Buffalo Sabres roster:

LW, Evander Kane / C, Jack Eichel / RW, Sam Reinhart
LW, Benoit Pouliot / C, Ryan O'Reilly / RW, Kyle Okposo
LW, Evan Rodrigues / C, Johan Larsson / RW, Jason Pominville

D, Marco Scandella / D, Rasmus Ristolainen
D, Jake McCabe / D, Zach Bogosian

G, Robin Lehner

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