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 sabres.com):

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 sabresprospects.com/sabres.com, 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.

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