Tuesday, October 31, 2017

If the Buffalo Sabres want to keep this sesaon from getting away from them...

...they'll need to get healthier and rearrange the roster somewhat with the added talent.

Published by hockeybuzz.com, 10-29-2017

After yesterday's loss to the San Jose' Sharks, the first time the Buffalo Sabres had lost to them in regulation since December, 2005, the first inclination was that this team needs to be shaken up. Usually when the words "shaken up" are uttered that means a coaching change or significant trade of some sort.

For those clamoring for coach Phil Housley's dismissal. Save it. I highly doubt that's even begun to enter the thought process of GM Jason Botterill and the powers that be at the foot of Washington St. Housley won't be dismissed anytime soon nor should he be. Sure, the team is 3-7-2 right now, but the door that leads to a breakout from this rough start has been a tough one to kick down and as bad as it looks right now, progress has been made.

It's easy to look at the games against the NY Islanders, New Jersey Devils and Vancouver Canucks as outright stinkers worthy of a tank-era team. However, Buffalo has been pulling it together over the last couple of weeks (sans the 'Nucks game) and have been making great strides in certain areas, most notably their puck movement and breakouts.

Buffalo's transition game has made great strides compared to the last two seasons. A lot of it has to do with personnel on the back end as there are better skaters and puck handlers out there on a nightly basis. But we also shouldn't discount how Housley has his forward group focusing on multi-player support for the defenseman. I didn't see a lot of that last season as the stretch-pass seemed to be the style du jour.

The forwards coming back into the defensive zone in support has meant many more options for the defensemen and once that puck gets into the hands of a forward, the break begins and support continues into the opposition zone. Whereas the stretch pass offered an opportunity for a homerun, this style allows for short, quick passes to begin the rush with the weak side defenseman ready to join the rush. Other than poor puck handling and puck management, the only time this breaks down is when players, mostly forwards, are cheating up ice. We've seen plenty of that this season, mostly when they're playing catchup, which has been way more often than not.

On-ice play has gotten better for this team as the players have gotten more accustomed to what's expected but there are still areas which keep the Sabres from taking a big step forward in the win column.

After the game yesterday Housley was asked about what he thought about his team overall and the coach responded by saying, "It's easy to get negative on our guys because of our record," before backing his players.

"We all [expected more]" said Housley. "If you look at our effort, if you look at the way we played the game [today], I have to give our guys a lot of credit. They did everything today but win.

"I thought our guys played very hard, competed. We out-chanced them. Could we have scored more goals? Could we have gotten in front of the net a little bit more? Yes. But, I can't erase the effort our guys brought today. It's unfortunate we lost, but if we continue to work that way, we're going to get our results."

This team is beginning to come together and although effort is good, and seeing compete is even better, more talent will help them bust down that door.

As of today the Sabres have a nearly complete forward group. Forward Evan Rodrigues had a great camp and it looked as if he would be on the opening night roster. He suffered a broken hand and has yet to play this season. Fourth line center Jacob Josefson was really beginning to hit his stride before suffering a lower body injury six games into the season. He was placed on injured reserve October 17.

The Sabres have a bona fide top line this year with Jack Eichel centering Evander Kane and Jason Pominville. All three are tied for the team lead with 12 points in 12 games and only six of their combined 36 points have come on the powerplay. Kane and Pominville lead the Sabres with six goals each while Eichel leads the team with eight assists.

Buffalo's second line has two legit top-six players in center Ryan O'Reilly and right wing Kyle Okposo but both got off to extremely slow starts. O'Reilly has kicked it in gear with six points (4+2) since scoring his first goal six games ago on October 17. Three of O'Reilly's four goals have come on the powerplay. Okposo, however, has yet to break out of his slump with only two assists in 10 games thus far.

On O'Reilly's left wing is Benoit Pouliot, another player that got off to an extremely slow start. Pouliot has began to get things rolling a bit with two goals in his last four games. Prior to that he was good for only one point (an assist) in his previous eight games.

Those were the top two lines that the Sabres used against a veteran San Jose' team yesterday afternoon and the Sharks placed plenty of their focus, as well as their best players, on those two lines.

One of the biggest problems facing the Sabres up front other than slow starts and the continued slump from Okposo, is lack of secondary scoring from the bottom six. Yesterday Housley had Sam Reinhart centering the third line between Zemgus Girgensons and rookie Justin Bailey while  Johan Larsson centered Jordan Nolan and Seth Griffith on the fourth line. Those six have combined for a total of seven goals and 16 points through 60 total games played.

Contrast that to the bottom-six the Columbus Blue Jackets iced against Buffalo on Wednesday. Sonny Milano, Matt Calvert, Zac Daple, Alexander Wennberg, Pierre Luc-Dubois and Oliver Bjorkstrand have combined for 12 goals and 26 points through 64 total games played. Milano leads the team with five goals while Wennberg is second on the team in assists with seven and fourth in points with eight.

Having Rodrigues in the lineup along with Josefson may or may not make much of a difference in the scoring department, but it would add a little more talent to Buffalo's forward group while also allowing the lines to be set differently.

Housley began the year with Reinhart at center despite the 22 yr. old's success the last two seasons playing wing in the top-six. Reinhart was moved to wing for a bit, on the third line, but once Josefson went down he was shifted back to center. He has two goals and two assists on the season after averaging 20 goals over his first two seasons. Those four points, lead the bottom-six in scoring.

Reinhart does not look comfortable at center yet and may never be an NHL center. Plus he could use more talent around him which seemed to bring out the innate talent within him. Nothing against Girgensons and Bailey, but they're not Eichel or Kane.

Having Rodrigues and Josefson back in the lineup would mean an upgrade in talent, not a great upgrade, albeit, but every little bit helps. Right now the top line is carrying the load with a little help from Ryan O'Reilly and the powerplay. Shut them down and the Sabres are in for a rough night.

Although the Sabres have themselves a real nice top-pairing in Rasmus Ristolainen and Marco Scandella, they're really getting crushed by injuries on the other pairings. Again.

Two of their projected top-seven defensemen have yet to play a game this season. Zach Bogosian was lost to a lower body injury and is still on IR while Justin Falk has resumed practicing and may be available on the Sabres two-game road trip this Thursday and Saturday. Bogosian was expected to be in the top four and many projected much better results from him in Housley's new system. Falk had played his way into the Sabre lineup last season and continued to impress during camp. He figures to be a bottom-pairing d-man at best but it's a role he's comfortable with and one in which he and the team can succeed.

Having those two out opened the door for rookie Victor Antipin to get some extended playing time and journeyman Matt Tennyson to skate on a regular pairing, mostly the second, while also being on the ice in all situations. Antipin struggled early and the call went to veteran Josh Gorges to help straighten things out on defense. It worked until he was felled by a lower body injury and was placed on IR after only four games.

With injuries on the back end, the Sabres recalled defensemen Taylor Fedun and Zach Redmond. Fedun played in two games, had an assist and was a plus-one before he was relieved by Redmond who played the next two games, had zero points and was a minus-1. Buffalo went into yesterday's game with these pairings:

Marco Scandella-Rasmus Ristolainen
Jake McCabe-Tennyson

Housley leaned heavily on the top four in that game with none playing under 20 minutes. The duo of McCabe and Tennyson were a combined minus-three and were on the ice for the Sharks' game-winner.

Having one of Tennyson and now Redmond in the lineup since Fedun was sent to Rochester doesn't bode well for the defense as a whole and although Tennyson has done a fairly good job of holding his own, although he's had some mistakes that turned costly. Once again the return of Falk and Bogosian represents would represent an upgrade in talent. It's not to say that adding Rodrigues, Josefson, Bogosian and Falk would instantly turn the Sabres into a contender, but those four players represent more talent and quality experience than the four players they'd replace in the lineup.

Housley's right in that his players have been playing much better and his system is also beginning to really take hold. Scoring is still a problem as certain players are gripping their sticks too tight while others may not have the talent to score at the NHL level. Having players come in that can score in the NHL will help that. He also said they were done-in by a couple of mistakes against the Sharks, which is also true. Some players will always make certain mistakes at the NHL-level, that's why most of their careers have been spent in the minors. They can and will be replaced, hopefully by players who make less mistakes.

It's no fun being the fan of a 3-7-2 team, especially in Buffalo after going through two tank years and two seasons of futility, not to mention being on their second GM and coach since Eichel was drafted in 2015.

At this point Housley has what he has to work with and the only influx of talent he can really expect is from players returning from injury. It may not be enough, but it will help.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Will the Sabres take a page out of the Bills playbook?

Published by hockeybuzz.com, 10-28-2017

Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Marcell Dareus and his bloated contract were traded to the Jacksonville Jaguars yesterday. Although the return for the former third-overall pick in 2011 was a conditional sixth-rounder that could end up being a fifth, expunging Dareus from the team should be good for both the team and the player himself.

When Bills owners Terry and Kim Pegula brought in a new coach and GM after a disappointing season, a big reason behind the move was to change the culture of the team. Dareus was a two-time Pro Bowler with the size and skill to be a difference maker on the interior line but unfortunately he had a couple of suspensions and some off-field issues that drew the ire of those at One-Bills Drive.

In addition, he didn't buy into what the Bills were now doing and the new regime showed no hesitation in showing him the door when the opportunity arose. The biggest obstacle facing Bills GM Brandon Beane in the case of Dareus was the six-year, $96.6 million contract extension he signed in 2015. Reports had Dareus on the block all summer but finally the Jaguars came forward and the deal was done.

Buffalo will still be on the hook for $24 million in dead cap space through 2018, according to reports, but to them the cap-hit and low return was worth it just to move him.

The Buffalo Sabres are in a similar situation cap-wise to the Bills in that they have some high salaried players with low production whom they'd seemingly like to move. Although the NFL and NHL salary cap structure varies immensely, the bottom line is that there is only a limited amount of money for the roster. And, just like with the Bills, the Sabres have a new GM and head coach this season and are trying to change the culture at the foot of Washington St.

Sabres GM Jason Botterill inherited a number of contracts from the previous regime that will become thorny issues beginning next season. Although he still has flexibility this season while being a least $4 million under the NHL cap-ceiling, according to CapFriendly.com, next year Jack Eichel's $10 million cap-hit will be on the books and they'll need to do some financial finagling.

A lot of the near and long-term cap decisions this club needs to make have to do with the performance of the team and the individual players and this season the Sabres are off to a rough start. A 3-6-2 record isn't exactly ideal for a team that's headed towards the middle of the pack age-wise while having the 19th largest projected cap-hit amongst the 31 NHL teams.

Back in 2014, then GM Tim Murray brought three veterans on board to help stabilize and guide the team through impending troubled waters. Brian Gionta, Josh Gorges and Matt Moulson went into the 2014-15 season pretty hefty salaries but then it didn't matter too much as they fit easily into a team that filled with young players and journeymen players on low-paying contracts. But as Murray began building his team, he added higher priced players and things got tighter financially to the point where they were watching every penny last season.

Heading into this season, the Sabres have some bloated contracts that are beginning to weigh them down. Although Gionta and his $4.25 million cap-hit is off the books, the Sabres are paying Gorges $3.9 million in this the final year of his contract and are on the hook for $5 million to Moulson through the end of next season. That's $8.9 million for two players who've been healthy scratches for a combined 12 games in the Buffalo's short 11-game season thus far.

The Gorges contract will eventually take care of itself sometime between now and July 1 as he will either be traded before or at the NHL Trade Deadline or not re-signed come season's end. Moulson, on the other hand, is more of a problem.

No doubt the Sabres would move him in a heartbeat if someone would take on his contract and there is precedent for something like that happening. The Arizona Coyotes made three trades for bloated contracts over the course of the past two off seasons while on the other side of the equation,  Toronto Maple Leafs offloaded some pretty hefty contracts in 2015 and 2016 to help their rebuild.

Ideally Botterill could work something out with another team that has the cap-space for Moulson's contract without having to give up too much in return but if that doesn't happen, it's expected that the Sabres will buy him out and stretch out his buyout-hit over two seasons with a cap-hit of $3.67 million next season and $667K in 2019-20.

Those three contracts were expected to come off the books but the Sabres may also have unintended trouble on the horizon with a couple other contracts should things not turn around.

Defenseman Zach Bogosian was part of a blockbuster deal by Murray on February 11, 2015. The former third-overall pick (2008) came to Buffalo barely removed from signing a multi-year extension with his former team, the Winnipeg Jets. Bogosian has a cap-hit of $5.1 million through  2019-20 and was still part of the deal despite Murray knowing that injuries were becoming a part of the equation. The young vet as he had not played in over 70 games since the 2010-11 at the time the deal was made. In his first full season with Buffalo, Bogosian missed 18 game while last season he missed 26. He’s yet to play a game for Buffalo this season and is presently listed as week-to-week according to head coach Phil Housley.

Kyle Okposo was the best free agent on the market last season and Murray signed him to a 7-year/$42 million contract. Okposo had a good first season in Buffalo scoring 45 points (19+26) in 65 games, however it was cut short by a concussion. He had an adverse reaction to medication and was in the Intensive Care Unit before beginning his return to the ice in July.

Okposo is off to a rough start this season with only one assist in nine games thus far. Much of his slow start could be attributed to him trying to get up to game-speed, which may have taken a little longer than some anticipated, but uneasiness with his contract has begun to seep into the conversation.

Some may also look to defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen's $5.4 million cap-hit for the next five seasons and there will always be questions as to whether Ryan O'Reilly's can achieve and maintain a top-level, two-way consistency to justify his $7.5 million cap-hit. Right now neither seem to be serious cause for concern, but things may change if the team can't turn things around within the next year or two.

However, those are the contracts of the future for Botterill and the Sabres to worry about. It doesn't look as if they'll be going for broke on a Stanley Cup run this year so the need for immediate cap-relief doesn't seem to be of the utmost importance. But next season, if things go as planned and desired, it might be different.

As the Dareus situation, and many in the NHL over the past couple of years, proves, an unwanted contract can be moved if a team is willing to do so and is willing to pay a price to get it done.

Will the Sabres be interested in taking a page out of the Bills' playbook?


A quick note.

Today the Sabres are at home to take on the San Jose' Sharks. Game time is 1:00 pm.


Quick note Part 2:

Today is Jack Eichel's 21st Birthday.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Struggles continue for Sabres and their leadership group

Published by hockeybuzz.com, 10-26-2017

An old, ugly nemesis reared it's ugly head last night and it came in the form of a three-goal Columbus Blue Jackets barrage late in the second period last night. With the score 1-0 in favor of Columbus scored three goals in less than three minutes to take command of a previously tight game and went on to beat the Buffalo Sabres 5-1.

That marked the third time this season that Buffalo has been overrun by a blitzkrieg of goals en route to a lopsided defeat. It happened in Brooklyn against the NY Islanders when they gave up three goals in a 1:47 span of the second period, the first two while on they were on the powerplay. They lost 6-3. In the next game at home vs. the New Jersey Devils, they gave up three goals in a 6:56 second span of the second period, beginning with another shorthanded goal. The Devils added a fourth with just over a minute left in the second period and went on to defeat Buffalo, 6-2.

In 11 games this season the Islanders, Devils and Vegas Golden Knights have each scored four unanswered goals against the Sabres. The first two were routs but somehow Buffalo managed a point against Vegas as they lost 5-4 in overtime.

Words like "fragile" and phrases like "wilt under pressure" were used in those losses as well as others dating back over 10 years. Although the team has shown resiliency, having made a couple of dramatic comebacks this season against Vegas and the Boston Bruins, a blitzkrieg of goals-against is not something that leads to success as shown by Buffalo's two playoff appearances in that time and no playoff series wins to show for it.

Buffalo GM Jason Botterill joined WGR550 Radio's Mike Schopp and the Bulldog last Friday after the team was at home for their first game after a four-game West Coast road trip. Botterill was on before the team faced off against the Vancouver Canucks and was asked by Schopp about the lack of a captain and whether or not that was "an indictment of what [the Sabres] might have in that (leadership) area."

"Not at all," said Botterill. "I see it as a situation where the days of Mark Messier and this one guy leading a team to glory, it just doesn't exist anymore. There has to be a strong leadership group."

It's a rather curious statement considering that eight of the last 11 Stanley Cups went to teams with strong captains:

2008-Niklas Lidstrom (DET)
2009, 2016, 2017-Sidney Crosby (PIT)
2010, 2013, 2015-Jonathan Toews (CHI)
2011-Zdeno Chara (BOS)

It's a curious debate as well considering that the NHL has a long history of captains being driving forces behind their teams' successes. Buffalo hasn't been relevant since they appeared in back-to-back Eastern Conference Finals from 2005-06 with co-captains Chris Drury and Daniel Briere. Before that it was Michael "Captain Crunch" Peca and the "hardest working team in hockey. And before that it was Pat LaFontaine in the early 90's. The years in between were either spent rebuilding or floundering in mediocrity despite some strong individual talent.

Botterill also followed up the quote about a strong leadership group by saying, "If it's just one person, I think the guys tune out over the course of 82 games."

That's rather interesting as well. We hear all the time about coaches losing the room, but having a captain lose the room is non-existent when there's a captain worthy of his leadership role. One would think that it does happen with lesser captains, but it's something we rarely if ever hear about.

One could surmise that Botterill is simply covering for his leadership group or buying some time until he and coach Phil Housley have a firm grip on what they have on hand. Fact is, some players can step up and take on that captain's role, relish it and succeed in it while others can't, won't or just don't have the faculties to be a successful captain. Those who can will help carry their teams as far as talent, coaching, goaltending, timing and luck will allow and right now in Buffalo, the Sabres do not have that kind of on-ice leadership as indicated by the number of games where they were steamrolled.

That very night after Botterill uttered those words, the Sabres went into the second period with a 2-1 lead and playing very well. But then it fell apart as the Canucks took by over scoring three unanswered goals beginning with what else, a shortie, en route to a 4-2 win.

Having said all that, it would seem as if there's a lot of trial and evaluation going on right now in Sabreland. One would think that if a surefire captain emerged, said player would be wearing the 'C' right now. Jack Eichel is the logical choice, but it might be highly possible that Botterill and the team want him to wait another year, like they're doing in Toronto with Auston Matthews.

The Sabres have their problems right now which includes injuries and inconsistencies but in addition to the possibility of captaincy trial balloons being floated, it would seem as if Housley's doing a lot of experimenting and evaluation as well. Sam Reinhart at center, Jason Pominville all around the top-six at wing, Eichel focusing on his own zone, Zemgus Girgensons up and down the lineup, defenseman Matt Tennyson's second-pairing minutes, recent call-up Zach Redmond replacing previous call up Taylor Fedun on defense despite the latter having a pretty strong game in a win the previous night.

Team-wise Housley has juggled the powerplay and has altered his system to tighten things up. The result is an inconsistent at best, 3-6-2 team.

Last night against Columbus, Ryan O'Reilly went in on a breakaway with the Sabres down 1-0 and controlling much of the play. He was stopped and much of post-game interviews centered around that being a turning point and how that one play sucked the air out of them. Yet the Blue Jackets didn't tack on another goal until nearly eight minutes later leaving a huge swath of time for the leadership group to make a difference.

They didn't and after Columbus scored to make it 2-0, things fell apart.

Such are the struggles of this Buffalo team,one that came into this season featuring a lot of new faces playing in a new system under a new coaching staff. We're 11 games in and there are still far more questions than answers and as long as that's the case, the Sabres struggles will continue.

Buffalo has one game scheduled, a matinee on Saturday vs. the San Jose' Sharks, between now and next Thursday. Perhaps some of the walking wounded come back. Perhaps not. Regardless of what transpires on the injury front, Housley needs to find some chemistry and stick with what works, or stick with what's shown progress. He's finding it here and there, but Housley's team not playing as a cohesive unit from the leadership group on down. If they ever want to get out of the morass they find themselves in, it better happen soon or we'll be seeing more of these lopsided losses and a rather long and obvious evaluation period will be upon us for the rest of the season.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Sabres in Columbus on NBCSN tonight

Published by hockeybuzz.com, 10-25-2017

The Buffalo Sabres jumped on a plane right after their 1-0 victory over the Detroit Red Wings at KeyBank Center last night and headed to Buckeye Country for a game tonight against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Last night’s win wasn’t without flaws, as they caught the Wings on a four-game winless streak (0-3-1,) but Buffalo had to gut this one out with a desperate Detroit team. The Wings came out strong on the heels of a tongue-lashing by head coach Jeff Blashill who called them out after a 4-1 loss to the Vancouver Canucks on home ice Sunday. “Brutal effort,” Blashill said to the gathered media as he began his press conference after the 'Nucks game. “I thought it was an embarrassing effort. Not even close to the level of competitiveness that you have to have. We should be embarrassed of ourselves. For me at the top all the way on down. We got outcompeted, outworked, out-detailed.” 
That wasn't about to happen last night at Buffalo as Blashill's Wings played a strong game with only one blemish on the night. Buffalo's Benoit Pouliot scored the only goal of the game as jumped on a loose puck behind the net then raced around to stuff it past Wings goalie Jimmy Howard. Unfortunately for the Wings, none of their 32 shots on goal got past Buffalo netminder Robin Lehner. Howard also faced 32 shots and lost for the first time ever in his career against the Sabres. He came into the game with an 8-0-1 record and a 1.46 GAA in 10 games vs. Buffalo.
As for the Sabres, they're continuing to improve, especially on the back end where the duo of Rasmus Ristolainen (29:55 TOI) and Marco Scandella (27:30) anchored a progressing defense-corps. That time on ice also included both playing the final 2:33 with Buffalo up by one goal. The whole team played really sound defense as Buffalo continues to simplify their game. "I think we played a good game," said Lehner to the gathered media afterward, "I think we played the right way. We followed the game plan."
Lehner did point out that through the first ten minutes of the game the Sabres reverted back to their early-season form, "forcing pucks up the middle [with the Wings] turning it back around." He also used last Saturday's come from behind win at Boston as an example of what this team can do when they play the right way. "The game in Boston wasn't like a wake-up call," he said, "but I think it really showed [that] when we play our game, we're successful and when we force pucks, teams are good and they're going to make you pay."
The Sabres are still learning as a team, still getting comfortable with linemates and d-partners, still trying to find their niche in coach Phil Housley's system. Housley himself is still getting acclimated to his new surroundings as first-time head coach and although the team has won two in a row, you are what your record says you are and right now Buffalo's 3-5-2 record says they’re in the bottom-half of the league. However, their 3-1-1 record over their last five games says that their a team that’s beginning to make a push to get out of the lower portion of the league.
Regardless of consecutive losses at the beginning of their four-game home stand, the Blue Jackets are still a dangerous team and tonight represents a "big" game, according to Columbus forward Matt Calvert. "We've lost two in a row on our home ice, and our fans have been great for us, cheering loud for us, "said Calvert to the local media. "It's something we really prided ourselves on last year, something we worked on throughout the year, and we became a hard team to play at home."
Last year the Blue Jackets finished third in a tough Metropolitan Division with 108 points and went 28-12-1 at home. This year, however, Columbus is an even 2-2-0 at Nationwide Arena.
Buffalo will need to be prepared for an early onslaught from the Blue Jackets, and with all due respect to the Wings, some of the early mistakes the Sabres made against Detroit may end up in the back of their net against Columbus. The Jackets boasted 12 double-digit goal scorers last season which placed them fifth in the conference for goals-scored and although they lost their No. 3 goal scorer from last year in Brandon Saad, 21 yr. old rookie Sonny Milano looks to be heir apparent as he leads the team in goals with five on the season.
Without a morning skate, one would think that Housley sticks with the lineup he had in last night's win, barring an return by forward Zemgus Girgensons or defenseman Justin Falk. Both skated with the team yesterday, but did not play, and both are listed as day-to-day. Here's what Housley rolled with last night:
With Lehner playing last night, it wouldn't be surprising to see backup Chad Johnson in net for Buffalo.
Game-time is 8:00 pm as tonight's Buffalo/Columbus matchup is on NBCSN marking not only one of 16 scheduled back-to-back games for the Sabres, but also a back-to-back on national TV.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Which Sabres players like the bright lights of National Television?

Published by hockeybuzz.com, 10-24-2017

The Buffalo Sabres hit the ice tonight for the first of seven nationally televised games this year. Two years ago, after coming out of the tank, NBC had them scheduled for five games on their networks and last season they were on for eight, which means that the network's confidence in Buffalo was growing.

Apparently NBC is not convinced that the Sabres would take a step forward this season and as of right now, their reservations are warranted as Buffalo heads into tonight's matchup at home against the Detroit Red Wings with a 2-5-2 record. So seven games seems appropriate, although the Sabres will appear in the 10th anniversary of the Winter Classic, the brainchild of then team president Larry Quinn.

The first "Classic" was on January 1, 2008 at then named Ralph Wilson Stadium against the Pittsburgh Penguins. This year the Sabres travel to the Big Apple to take on the NY Rangers at Citi Field, home of the NY Mets. And in a head-scratching move, Buffalo will be the "home team."

Here's the full Sabres national TV schedule this season, which is subject to change:

Tuesday, Oct. 24 vs. Detroit, 7:30 p.m. (NBCSN)
Wednesday, Oct. 25 at Columbus, 8 p.m. (NBCSN)
Tuesday, Nov. 7 vs. Washington, 7 p.m. (NBCSN)
Tuesday, Dec. 19 vs Boston, 7:30 p.m. (NBCSN)
Sunday, Jan. 1 vs. New York Rangers, 1 p.m. (2018 Winter Classic on NBC)
Thursday, Jan. 18 at New York Rangers, 7:30 p.m. (NBCSN)
Monday, March 5 vs. Toronto, 7:30 p.m. (NBCSN)

Over the last two seasons, under then coach Dan Bylsma, the Sabres finished with an overall record of 4-5-4 in games that were scheduled to be televised nationally. That includes a March 1, 2016 matchup featuring the two prizes of the 2015 NHL Draft--Edmonton's Connor McDavid and Buffalo's Jack Eichel. It was included in the overall record despite the fact that NBC switched to a Washington Capitals/Pittsburgh Penguins matchup, as if the hockey world hadn't seen enough of the battle between Washington's Alex Ovechkin and Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby.

Although the Oilers/Sabres matchup left much to be desired, NBC missed a golden opportunity to showcase the first-ever matchup between McDavid and Eichel, the duo formerly known as "McEichel" with McDavid scoring both Edmonton goals, the second in overtime of a 2-1 Oilers victory. Then again, Bylsma himself didn't grasp the significance of the moment as he trotted out Johan Larsson and his line to take the opening faceoff against McDavid and his line leaving fans scratching their heads.

So including the "McEichel" matchup that ended up not being televised, Buffalo went 1-3-1 on NBC in 2015-16 and bettered that record to 3-2-3 last season. In all the games combined the Sabres scored 32 goals-for and allowed 38 goals against. Most notable for the Sabres was their powerplay acumen those two seasons in the national spotlight. In '15-'16 they went 3/11 (27.2%) and last year it was even better at 10/28 (35.7%.)

This is rather significant as we know that the Sabres relied heavily upon their first-ranked powerplay last season as did some individuals as well.

Over the course of the last two seasons on NBC Eichel lead all Sabres players with 12 points (6+6) and in an interesting twist, five of his six goals came on the powerplay while five of his six assists came at even strength. That propensity for setting up his linemates 5v5 helped Zemgus Girgensons become second on the team with four goals in the national spotlight. Eichel set up Girgensons twice in a 1:13 span in New York vs. the Rangers.

Matt Moulson turned into a powerplay specialist over the course of the last two seasons, as two of his three goals and two of his three assists on NBC came on the powerplay during that span. Rasmus Ristolainen also took advantage of the powerplay registering five of his eight assists while Ryan O'Reilly collected six of his eight assists with the man advantage. However, of the two, only Ristolainen was able to light the lamp, and he did it only one time.

Kyle Okposo, Sam Reinhart and Zach Bogosian also used the powerplay to their advantage while Evander Kane only scored one of his four goals with the man advantage.

Here's your scoring leaders for the current Sabers only over the last two seasons on national TV.







And your powerplay leaders.







Buffalo had a trio of goalies in the spotlight beginning with Chad Johnson, who took over the starters role after No. 1 Robin Lehner went down with an injury in the second period of the season opener.

Johnson had a 1-2-0 record on national TV allowing eight goals on 91 shots (.912 Sv%.)

Lehner went 2-3-2 with one shutout and allowed 20 goals on 241 shots (.917 Sv%.)

Anders Nilsson backed up Lehner last season and started the first three games for Buffalo on NBC. He had a 1-0-2 record allowing 8 goals on 109 shots for a .926 Sv%.

The Sabres hit the ice tonight with points in three of their last four games (2-1-1) after coming off of a four-game losing streak. They're still getting hit by the injury bug although Girgensons and defenseman Justin Falk skated with the team at today's game-day skate. Neither will probably play tonight and according to reports from the rink, head coach Phil Housley mixed up the lines and d-pairings a bit again.

Here's what the local media reported the lines and pairings to be:

Kane - Eichel - Okposo
Reinhart - O’Reilly - Pominville
Nolan - Pouliot - Bailey
Moulson - Larsson - Griffith

Benoit Pouliot at center is very interesting as the Reinhart experiment there seems to be losing steam.

On defense:

Scandella - Ristolainen
McCabe - Fedun
Antipin - Tennyson

Lehner looks to get the nod in net for Buffalo and it was noted by John Vogl of the Buffalo News that Lehner went back to Vaughn equipment after starting out the season using Brian's.

Will it help?

Hopefully as he's 1-3-1 this season with a bloated 3.29 GAA and a very sub-par .894 Sv%.

Gametime is at 7:30 pm.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

After a big comeback win at Boston, Housley has some lineup tweaks

Published by hockeybuzz.com, 10-23-2017

With Buffalo down 4-2 headed into the third period against the Boston Bruins, Sabres coach Phil Housley stuck with the lines he'd been using for nearly the entire game and it paid off with constant pressure and a goal from Benoit Pouliot to bring the Sabres to within one goal. The game-tying goal was scored just 10 seconds after the Boston Bruins killed off a minor penalty as the Sabres were transitioning from the powerplay to 5v5.

After an inconsistent first period where the Bruins took a 2-0 lead before extending that to a 3-0 lead less than a minute into the second, Buffalo got it's groove on and for the better part of the final 39+ minutes the Sabres were buzzing all over the ice. Every line was contributing in some fashion with the top two lines contributing three goals. The defense settled in and were instrumental in getting the puck up ice in the transition game. From there the Sabres controlled much of the play. Buffalo outshot Boston 30-18 in the second and third periods combined and outscored them by a 4-2 margin which included three unanswered goals to send the game to overtime, where they won.

Sounds like they finally found some chemistry. Right?

At the morning skate today one would have expected Housley to keep the lines and defense-pairings as is, especially after a win with many positives attached to it. However, word from the rink is that the first-year coach mixed things up today with the forward lines.

According to reports from today's practice, Housley moved Justin Bailey off the Jack Eichel/Evander Kane line and put Kyle Okposo in his place. Bailey was moved to the third line with center Sam Reinhart and Jordan Nolan, who was moved up a notch. Matt Moulson who was on the third line was dropped to the fourth line with Johan Larsson and Seth Griffith. The only line that was kept intact was the Pouliot/Ryan O'Reilly/Jason Pominville line, which scored two 5v5 goals against the Bruins.

Here's what the lines were for the Boston game:


Here's what they were today:


These may not be the final lines for tomorrow night's home game vs. the Detroit Red Wings, but it's kind of curious that Housley would mix things up after a pretty successful game.

Moving Okposo up makes some sense as they really need to get him going. The Sabres only have two right wingers who've proven that they can play in a top-six role and he's one of them. The 29 yr. old has recorded 20+ goals in two of the past four seasons and the other two seasons (18 and 19 goals)were cut short by injuries. Last season was one of them as Okposo scored 19 goals and 45 points in 65 games before being felled by concussions.

The concussion wasn't the only problem Okposo suffered last season and into the off-season as he had an adverse reaction to medication taken for it that landed him in the neurosurgical intensive care unit of Buffalo General Medical Center. It took him all summer to recover although he did play in Da Beauty League with other NHL'ers in his home state of Minnesota in mid-July. Seeing him on the ice was a welcome sight in Sabreland.

But it's taken him a while to get up to game-speed. The Boston game was by far his best of the season and it looks like he's finally back to the player he was before all this happened. It took him five games of ineffective play and an in-game benching in his sixth game (vs. Vancouver) before he came to life in Boston which included a plus-1 rating and ringing the crossbar with less than :30 to play in a 4-4 game.

Should Housley stick with those lines having Okposo with the likes of speedsters Kane and Eichel should open up plenty of ice for him. He's also smart enough and skilled enough to get those two the puck when the opportunity arises.

Unfortunately for Bailey, Okposo moving up means he's moving down.

Bailey has impressed ever since he was called up for the Anaheim game on October 15. He scored in that game and also opened the scoring two games later against Vancouver. His two goals in four games equals the two he scored in 32 games last season and he's added an assist so far while chiming in at a plus-1.

Housley has moved Bailey around the lineup and the 22 yr. old has responded well. For a man his size he has great speed but his biggest developmental hurdle has been his hands and head catching up with his feet. Bailey has come a long way in that department as the play seems to be slowing down for him and he's not losing the puck as much as he did over the course of his two previous pro seasons.

Bailey seems of the mindset right now that no matter where he plays, he wants to have an impact. That's a good thing, and it's something that will help keep him up with the Sabres.

Buffalo's top defensive pairing of Rasmus Ristolainen and Marco Scandella remained intact as they should. The duo logged huge minutes for the club and looked as if they're really building something. Jake McCabe and Matt Tennyson skated as a pair again while Taylor Fedun cut in. The bottom pairing was Victor Antipin with Zach Redmond. Fedun had skated with Antipin during the Boston game while Redmond was in the press box.

Housley also made changes to the powerplay units.

Today's top unit at practice was Eichel, O'Reilly, Reinhart, Ristolainen and Antipin.

The second unit was  Pominville, Okposo, Kane, Scandella and Tennyson.

The Sabres went 0/2 on the powerplay against Boston bringing their season totals to five goals in 32 opportunities (15.6%.) Interesting to note that Moulson, in addition to being dumped to the fourth line was also removed from the powerplay. The 33 yr. old may have played his best game of the season in Boston but still has zero points and a minus-6 rating.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Last night's big win by the Sabres in Boston can be summed up by this...

Published by hockeybuzz.com, 10-22-2017

"My sanity needed this."

Those four words typed by our own sbroads24 probably could have been uttered by virtually any fan in Sabreland as the Sabres overcame a three-goal deficit twice while on their way to a 5-4 overtime win against the rival Boston Bruins. Buffalo had not beaten the Bruins since December 26, 2015 (0-5-2) in Jack Eichel's first game as a Sabre back in his hometown of Boston and it looked as if they were headed for another defeat after, what else, a weak start.

There couldn’t have been a more harrowing start to this game. The Sabres found themselves down 2-0 at the end of the first period and were down 3-0 as long-time nemesis Brad Marchand scored his second goal of the game only :37 seconds into the second frame.

However, Buffalo began to turn things around when Jason Pominville scored and Jack Eichel answered a David Pastranak deflection goal to even the period out. The third period was all Buffalo as Benoit Pouliot scored 6:55 into the final frame and Evander Kane scored his team-leading sixth goal of the year to knot the game at 4-4.

The cool part about the third period was that this might be the Sabres team that coach Phil Housley had in mind. That period was clearly their best of the season thus far and it's a shame that it took this long for it to finally come out. Buffalo controlled the play against Boston for most of the period outshooting them by a 15-6 margin and outscoring them 2-0 . Passes out of the zone were mostly crisp as were those through the neutral zone and the combination created a controlled breakout which had the Bruins backpedaling the entire period.

Neither Pouliot’s goal nor Kane’s were pretty plays, but they both started with some pretty good forechecking and defenseman Jake McCabe sending pucks towards the net. On the first one, McCabe whiffed on a pass to Sam Reinhart but the puck found the stick of Pouliot who was in the slot and he made no mistake. On the second, McCabe sent a pass weak-side where Kane redirected a dribbler that barely made it over the goal line.

In overtime the Sabres simply dominated.

In overtime two Bruins—forward David Pastrnak and defenseman Tory Krug—got caught on the ice for over two minutes. The Sabres controlled the play and were able to make two line changes during that time. Ryan O’Reilly was the hero as he peeled to the front of the net and buried the game-winner on a backhand, but every Buffalo player who touched the puck in those two-plus minutes was responsible for basically making it an extended 3-on-1.

Pouliot had himself a breakout game, easily playing his best game in a Sabres uniform. Kyle Okposo was also noticeable for the right reasons which included a quickness to the puck we hadn’t seen since before suffering a concussion last season. Defenseman Marco Scandella was all over the ice and as he and d-partner Rasmus Ristolainen finally looked like they found top-pairing chemistry. Scandella had the primary assists on Eichel's goal and Ristolainen was a plus-3 in a game-high 29:40 of ice time.

Although this was a great, and surprising, comeback win for Buffalo, they still have some issues to iron out. One of them was summed up well when fellow hockey buzzard, Wetbandit1 wrote, “I just don’t get why the Sabres have to be down by 2 or 3 goals before they start playing like they’re capable of playing.”

And there’s the rub.

This is an NHL where parity rules and any team is capable of doing what the Sabres did last night. They still have a ton of work to do just to get above ground as they dug themselves a deep hole in the first eight games. They’re still having trouble coming out of the gate strong and their goaltending hasn’t been the greatest either. (It should be noted that Bruins backup goalie Anton Khudobin was in net and he looked shaky.) And there still are a few too many passengers. But this is still something very strong to build off of.
In addition to a big confidence boost, Housley may have found something in the lineup he has to work with. His line combinations in the top-six were interesting and seemed to work out rather well. Eichel was between two big, fast powerforwards in Kane and Justin Bailey while O’Reilly was flanked by Pouliot and Pominville. Five-on-five that group accounted for seven points on four goals and three assists.
He moved McCabe (2 assists, plus-1 rating) up to the second pairing with Matt Tennyson (who still has some issues) while 24 yr. old rookie Victor Antipin was with 29 yr. old journeyman Taylor Fedun. Both of them looked very good in their third-pairing roles as they displayed a quickness to the puck while making some good decisions with it as well.
The Sabres are home on Tuesday to faceoff against a beatable Detroit Red Wings club before travelling to Columbus, Ohio for the second of a back-to-back against the Blue Jackets on Wednesday. They should have gained a boatload of confidence with the win last night, but you're only as good as the game you're playing that night. 

Last night's win could represent a huge step back towards respectability but only if they can follow through with a strong game (and win) against the Red Wings.
That said, I believe last night's win saved some sanity amongst the faithful. Which is a good thing.



Sunday, October 22, 2017

On to Boston with a bitter taste still lingering

Published by hockeybuzz.com, 10-21-2017

It's about as crappy a start to a new season and a new regime as it can get. The Sabres head to Boston tonight with a 1-5-2 record, a boatload of injuries and on-ice play reminiscent of the tank years. And after last night's stinker against the Vancouver Canucks, hands are being thrown into the air across Sabreland as fans and media disgust with this product are popping in forums and social media.

Before we get to that, however, the NHL screwed the pooch last night by not disallowing a goal when there was clearly an offsides. It was a call that was almost as bad as Brett Hull's skate in the crease.

Here's the explanation: 

"After reviewing all available replays and consulting with the Linesman, NHL Hockey Operations staff confirmed that Vancouver's Jake Virtanen had possession and control of the puck as he entered the attacking zone prior to the goal. According to Rule 83.1, 'a player actually controlling the puck who shall cross the line ahead of the puck shall not be considered off-side provided he had possession and control of the puck prior to his skates crossing the blueline.'"

Yup, "control of the puck" means a air borne puck that's at least a foot from Virtanen. We're left to wonder if the staff in Toronto was actually reviewing the play or looking up this obscure rule to make the goal stand. A rule, by the way, that still doesn't justify the ruling on the ice.

Here's what Sabres coach Phil Housley had to say about the play when talking to the gathered media postgame: 

"I disagree with the call - totally," Housley said after the game, per John Vogl of the Buffalo News. "(Virtanen) knocks the puck out of the air. He never has possession. If you call that possession, then as long as I've been in the league it's a different answer or explanation than they gave.

"I'd call that 10 out of 10 times offside, and I'd continue to challenge that again."

Simply put, the Sabres got screwed on that play. Which is nothing new.

However, that being said, what the NHL didn't do to screw over Buffalo, the Sabres did to themselves. What on earth are you thinking, Rasmus Ristolainen? That turnover was pathetic (and lead to that controversial goal.) Jiminy Christmas, Housley, why on earth do you continue to play Nathan Beaulieu and Matt Tennyson on the powerplay? Tennyson adds little if anything and Beaulieu is a turnover machine and it happened again last night which lead to another shorthanded goal against, their league-leading sixth of the season. That's the fourth shorthanded goal that Beaulieu has been on the ice for.

On twitter, the despair in Sabreland is being tossed around like the like chum in the water. How long before Housley gets axed? Okposo's contract is an albatross. The tank didn't work. Everyone sux and we're all going straight to hell. Jesus, Could we be Toronto?

What a wonderful day.

On this warm October Saturday some fresh air would do everyone in Sabreland some good. Disconnect, step away and venture outside for a second. Go skip stones in the water or just lie down in the grass an look to the sky. Get away from the media and social media for a moment and give your brain a rest.

There's a game tonight. This may or may not be the low point of the Sabres season thus far but life still goes on and we're still only eight games into it. Sure, former coach Dan Bylsma is chuckling, but it's only worse because this first-time head coach is actually worse. At least for now. Sure, it's a tire fire in Buffalo but as we look at the standings, believe it or not, there are worse teams. The Sabres have a better record than the Montreal Canadiens and the Arizona Coyotes, the latter of whom has yet to win a game. Buffalo is also are tied with the Jimmy Vesey and the NY Rangers om the standings.

Small consolation, I know, but it could be worse.

Tonight the Sabres take on the Boston Bruins, a team they were swept by last season. In fact Buffalo is 2-5-3 over their last 10 vs. the B's but 4-4-2 on the road.

Buffalo heads to Beantown and the injuries continue to mount. The aforementioned Beaulieu is out and Buffalo called up Zach Redmond from Rochester. Whether he or yesterday's call up Taylor Fedun gets the nod is still up in the air but regardless, who'd have thought we'd be pining for Josh Gorges, Zach Bogosian and Justin Falk, all of whom are injured?

Housley benched $11 million worth of salary last night in the second and third periods as Kyle Okposo and Matt Moulson rode the pine because of ineffective play. Perhaps the Sabres are taking a page out of the Buffalo Bills playbook as they had their highest priced player, Marcel Dareus, playing minimal snaps and last week they had Cordy Glenn and his $14.2 million cap-hit this season were on the bench as well.

It's a tire-fire right now with the Sabres and the prospects of winning tonight against Boston aren't the greatest. The start to this hockey season has left a bitter taste in the mouths of the Sabres faithful and the only thing that can get it out is a win, plain and simple.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Griffith, Antipin in, Johnson in net. Vancouver in town.

Published by hockeybuzz.com, 10-20-2017

Forward Seth Griffith and defenseman Victor Antipin are in the lineup tonight for the Buffalo Sabres. Griffith was last seen in Los Angeles playing his third non-descript game in a row against the Kings while Antipin hadn't seen the ice since the Sabres got smoked by the New Jersey Devils on October 9.

This may be one of the last chances for Griffith as he's played in five games for the Sabres this year and has on assist and a -3 rating while averaging just over 12 minutes of ice-time. Buffalo takes on the Vancouver Canucks tonight at KeyBank Center then travels to Boston for the second of a back-to-back against the Bruins. Injuries could still keep him on the ice as Jacob Josefson has been placed on IR and Zemgus Girgensons is day-to-day but Griffith's play will ultimately determine his fate. Rochester is a stones throw away from Buffalo and will be home for their next two contests tonight and tomorrow night.

After today's game-day skate Sabres coach Phil Housley told the gathered media that Griffith needs to use his speed and that he needs to compete "in his own way." Housley mentioned that Griffith used his speed and contributed in the preseason, but the 5'9" 190 lb. Griffith has yet to make an impact.

Antipin has been in the pressbox since the New Jersey game on October 9. The 24 yr. old Russian looked as if he couldn't get a good feel for the pace of the NHL and was benched after a stat-line of zero points and a minus-4 rating in three games.  Housley told the gathered media after the team's game-day skate today that he wants to see Antipin defend better. "He's come a long way with the stick position and the body position," said the coach, "but he's got to use his speed. That's one asset he has to close quickly and create that body position early."

A spot on defense was opened up when Josh Gorges was listed as day-to-day. Housley put Antipin in the lineup despite the team calling up defenseman Taylor Fedun.

Back up goalie Chad Johnson will start his third game in a row for the Sabres. He had a strong game in Anaheim helping the Sabres get their first win of the season and Housley the first win of his career. Johnson was hung out to dry by his teammates against the Golden Knights but the Sabres managed an overtime loss in that game.

Starter Robin Lehner was ill and missed practice yesterday but Housley said today that Lehner "is back now with us" and that "he's healthy." Lehner will back up Johnson tonight.

With both Josefson and Girgensons out, Sam Reinhart moves back to center. Reinhart started out the season there and struggled mightily before Housley moved him back to wing. He began the Sabres road trip on third line wing and his play began improving to the point where Housley skated him alongside Ryan O'Reilly in the top-six. Reinhart responded with goals in consecutive games to end the trip.

Injuries have also allowed Matt Moulson and Jordan Nolan to stay in the lineup.

From today's game-day skate, the lines and defense pairings according to the media in attendance:



With the way that d-corps is set up, it wouldn't be all that surprising to see Fedun get the not over Tennyson. It's not that the latter has been playing all that bad, although his last game against Vegas was one he'd probably like to forget, but Tennyson doesn't have the on-ice vision that Fedun has. There were many times, almost on a nightly basis where Tennyson missed obvious opportunities, situations that Fedun might be more aware of.

While this is the first of a back-to-back for the Sabres, the Canucks are on the second game of their back-to-back. Last night Vancouver was pounded by the Boston Bruins 6-3 with former Sabres goalie Anders Nilsson in net.

Another former Sabre, Thomas Vanek, will also be back in Buffalo tonight for Vancouver. Vanek has four points (3+1) in six games for the Canucks.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Injuries and illnesses continue for Buffalo

Published by hockeybuzz.com, 10-19-2017

The Sabres came back from their four-game road West Coast road trip limping figuratively and literally. They finished the trip with a 1-2-1 record which, regardless of the progress they made during the trip still contains three losses. For a team that started out the season 0-2-1, that doesn't help in the points department all that well.

They also came back with a couple of injuries to players who, although not anywhere near the caliber of Jack Eichel and Evander Kane, both of whom were injured last season, were contributing in their own way.

If you recall Eichel was injured on the practice before the season opener and missed 21 games. Kane crashed heavily into the boards in the opener and missed 10 games with ineffectiveness affecting the next 11. This year Kane leads the team in scoring with 10 points (5+5) in seven games while Eichel is right behind at nine points (2+7.)

Team defense has been a problem for the team this year so far as a defense-corps that was bolstered by new GM Jason Botterill lost two veteran d-men in Zach Bogosian and Justin Falk prior to the season. It's not to say that Buffalo's defensive woes would be non-existent with those two in the lineup but their absence changes the corps as players were placed into roles above their pay-grade.

Defenseman Nathan Beaulieu is averaging over 19 minutes a game playing on the second pair and his d-partner Matt Tennyson is averaging over 17 minutes. The defense was so bad through Games 2&3 of the schedule that rookie Victor Antipin was moved to the press box in favor of the much maligned Josh Gorges, who attention to the defensive aspects of the game helped stabilize a situation that was spiraling out of control

Bogosian and Falk remain out with the latter in injured reserve. Bogosian was expected to be on the second pairing while Falk had earned a spot in the top-six based upon a solid performance last season and an equally solid follow up at training camp. Word from Housley's after practice presser today, via John Vogl of The Buffalo News, is that Bogosian is "week-to-week" as is Falk although Housley did say that he's begun skating.

Also of note, Gorges was not on the ice today and is "day-to-day," according to Housley. "There's a lot of guys that got banged up on this road trip," said the coach, "Josh is another one that has a lower-body injury, so we'll see tomorrow."

The news is not so good for fourth-line center Jacob Josefson, who was seen in a walking boot. Josefson was skating 11:01/game and was the leading forward on the penalty kill at 2:28/game before he went down against the Anaheim Ducks. Housley listed him as "more of a week-to-week right now."

Forward Zemgus Girgensons was the next forward to go down as he skated just over two minutes before taking a shot to the foot against the Vegas Golden Knights. The top-nine forward's career had been rejuvenated under Housley and was skating top-six minutes besides centers Eichel and Ryan O'Reilly. Before going down he had three points in seven games which put him on a pace to surpass his 34 total points from the previous two years under Dan Bylsma. Girgensons was also tied for the team lead in plus/minus at plus-2 with Jason Pominville.

Housley listed Girgensons as "day-to-day" saying that the shot Girgensons took is :taking a little bit longer to heal right now."

The injury to Josefson opened the door for Matt Moulson to remain in the lineup and if Girgensons remains sidelined that would mean another opportunity for Seth Griffith. Both, however, have been largely ineffective while playing.

Forward Kyle Okposo suffered an illness in San Jose', the first game of the Sabres road trip and missed two more games before playing against Vegas. Perhaps he gave what he had to goaltender Robin Lehner who missed practice because of an illness. Housley said that Lehner is "feeling a bit under the weather."

Chad Johnson has proven to be a capable backup and will be in net should Lehner still feel ill but who would back him up if Lehner doesn't dress is an interesting situation. Goalie Linus Ullmark has proven more than capable but it would seem as if the Sabres want him seeing as many pucks as possible this season in Rochester, which should be his last in the AHL.

Ullmark's backup is Adam Wilcox, who has never played in an NHL game. The former Tampa Bay Lightning sixth-round draft pick could get the call should Lehner be incapable of dressing for the game and the team feel that it's more beneficial for Ullmark to play against the Charlotte Checkers tomorrow night rather than have him sit on the bench in Buffalo.

Ryan Vinz, who was one of an NHL-record nine goalies to have for Buffalo in the 2013-14 season worked out as an emergency goalie for today's practice. The Sabres video tech was welcomed to center ice by the team after practice as "Vnizanity" returned to Buffalo.

For posterity's sake, here's the list of goalies who dressed for the Sabres in '13-'14:

1. Ryan Miller
2. Jhonas Enroth
3. Ryan Vinz
4. Jaroslav Halak
5. Michal Neuvirth
6. Nathan Lieuwen
7. Andrey Makarov
8. Matt Hackett
9. Connor Knapp

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Leaving Las Vegas...with some question marks...still.

Published by hockeybuzz.com, 10-18-2017

Seven games into the 2017-18 the Buffalo Sabres have managed one win, a 3-1 victory over a depleted Anaheim Ducks squad that was missing Ryan Kesler, Ryan Getzlaf, Hampus Lindholm, and
Sami Vatanen, among others. Last night they left the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas with a 5-4 overtime loss to the Golden Knights and backup goalie Malcom Subban who, by the way, has four NHL starts to his credit and is sporting a 3.55 GAA and .859 Sv%. Yet he just finished back-to-back wins, his only career wins,against the team that waived him, the Boston Bruins, and the Buffalo Sabres.

The Buffalo dressing room should be asking themselves, "How did we lose this?" Or better yet, "What were we doing out there?"

Buffalo started out well as Ryan O'Reilly scored his first goal of the season on a weak goal by Subban but instead of turning up the heat, they only managed 13 shots for the remainder of the first period and through the entire second, a total of 33:36. Granted, the Sabres had four minor penalties in entire second period which in effect jumbled their lines throughout, but one would have thought that there's be a little more desperation for a team that had only one win all season.

Vegas scored a goal in the first period and two goals in the second (one on the powerplay) to take a 3-1 lead. Early in the third they tacked on another one to make it 4-1.

The one saving grace in this game was that the Sabres did come back as some of their big guns contributed. O'Reilly netted his second of the game on a 5-on-3 powerplay as Sam Reinhart provided the screen. Reinhart would score on a tip-in with 1:58 left in the third period the Sabres on the powerplay with their goalie pulled to bring Buffalo to within one. The Sabres would tie the score with 8.8 seconds left as Evander Kane swatted  the puck out of mid-air to tie the score at 4-4.

However, the Sabre couldn't get the job done in overtime as Jack Eichel made a costly mistake. Eichel had lost his stick and it ended up in the corner to the right of Buffalo goalie Chad Johnson. With the play moving out of the Buffalo zone on the stick of Vegas' David Perron, Eichel chose to go after his stick. Just like that Perron moved in and fired a shot past Johnson before Eichel could get back into the play.

Regardless of that play, the Sabres did not register a shot in the overtime session.

After the game WGR550 Radio's Paul Hamilton asked the players if the thought they had stole a point or lost the chance at two points. There were mixed emotions with one player deferring to Sabres head coach Phil Housley.

Housley, for his part, was not happy. "I think it's unacceptable how we approached the game," the coach noting lack of preparation and the number of penalties as being big contributors to derailing what they were tryin to build upon. "We have a chance to build on something, and I know this is a process, but the process was a little broken tonight. A lack of preparation and accountability and urgency to start the game the way we finished was lacking.

"We can't [continue] to be chasing games right now," said a frustrated Housley, "We have to be ready to start the game and have that aggression in the first period. We've had it at times, but we lacked it tonight."

Man, how many times have we in Sabreland heard something like that coming out of a frustrated coaches mouth. It's something that dates back to Lindy Ruff post Drury/Briere and something we heard Dan Bylsma over the course of the last two seasons.

The question is, "Who's responsible for the lack of preparation? Some would say the coach, others would say the players. One thing the Buffalo Sabres haven't seen since the loss of co-captains Chris Drury and Daniel Briere is leadership. That's the thread that runs through the last decade.

A point is a point, and they'll take it. But if the Sabres want to entertain playoff thoughts, they better start getting the wins. With each loss it gets harder and harder.

The fanbase is beginning to panic. Housley's being called names after only seven games. O'Reilly's getting grief because of his contract and there are other contracts that are being called albatrosses like the one of Kyle Okposo. Some of the barbs being thrown at the team and individual players have merit, and one can even blame former GM Tim Murray as well.

If the Sabres had played with desperation throughout the game last night, there's a good chance they would have won and we'd be talking about a back-to-back wins. However, they couldn't get it done and it leaves plenty of question marks going forward.


Published by hockeybuzz.com, 10-17-2017

If we in Sabreland want to believe that this team is ready to step out of the abyss and begin to rise, then tonight is a must win.


The Sabres have been playing much better than the two stinkers they put together at Brooklyn against the NY Islanders and at home vs. the New Jersey Devils. A West Coast road trip has shaken them out of their collective slumber and got them focusing upon playing as a team on the entire sheet of ice.

Buffalo started their four-game trip at San Jose' to take on a winless Sharks' team at the SAP Center and proceeded to drop a 3-2 decision. The Sabres headed south to Los Angeles where they hadn't beaten the Kings since 2010 and worse yet hadn't scored a goal in four tries as they lost each of them by the exact 2-0 score. Zemgus Girgensons ended that scoring drought in the first and the team was looking to grab at least a point until an Evander Kane penalty with 2:04 left in the game squashed those dreams. The Kings scored :04 seconds later, added an empty-netter and sent Buffalo to a 4-2 defeat.

Sunday night in Anaheim the Sabres got off the schneid and won their first game of the season against a depleted Ducks lineup by the score of 3-1. Perhaps the most endearing quality of that win was that they finally got some secondary scoring as call-up Justin Bailey, Sam Reinhart and Johan Larsson (empty-net) all scored for the Sabres.

As we've watched this team through the last three games we seen them progress nicely  as a team while individually some players have started to come to life.

Tonight they face the expansion Vegas Golden Knights to wrap up their road trip.

Vegas has been pretty feisty in their surprising 4-1-0 start and coach Gerald Gallant has them playing smart, team hockey. “Anytime you’re going to have success in this league it’s about your forwards working hard with your defensemen,” Gallant told the local media yesterday. “We always talk about five-man connection; it’s a big word for our team. When you play five men in the D-zone, you play five men in the neutral zone and you play five men offensively you’re going to have a chance to win most nights.”

The Golden Knights don't have the horses to play a speed game as shown in their 6-3 defeat at the hands of the Detroit Red Wings. But they followed that up with a win vs. the Boston Bruins. "We played a good, solid, hard-working game (against Boston,)" said the coach. "It wasn’t a game like the other night where it was a lot faster paced. (Sunday) was more of a checkers match; there wasn’t a whole lot of scoring chances either way. I thought we played a good, solid game and it was a good, solid defensive effort for sure.”

That's what the Sabres will be up against tonight, an effort by Vegas to play a tight-checking game. Which is fine. But regardless of what they're up against, the fact is that they're facing an expansion team with a backup goalie in net who has three starts under his belt.

There's no excuse for Buffalo not to come away with two points. That is, if they want us to believe that the ship is righted and moving ahead.


Justin Bailey was a force against Anaheim. He scored his first goal of the season in the first shift of his first game this year. For the rest of the game he was as advertised, a big, fast powerforward who can play a rambunctious yet controlled style of play and get to the puck quickly.

Bailey's been able to score at the AHL-level but has yet to see that transfer to the NHL. Prior to last nights game he had four points (2+2) in 40 NHL games and although much of the time he played well, the fact that he wasn't hitting the scoresheet was troubling.

This is Bailey's best shot at sticking with the team and to do so he'll not only need to play exactly the way he did against Anaheim, but he'll also need to hit the score sheet with some regularity.


Sabres defenseman Josh Gorges has taken a beating in social media hockey circles because his advanced stats are press box worthy. Yet Gorges did something for this club that doesn't show up in Corsi, Fenwick, puck possession or any other fancy stat--he helped stabilize the defense.

Prior to him getting the start in San Jose', the Buffalo defense was a trainwreck as that corps, as well as the forward group, were thinking all offense. In looking to jump into the play and create offense they forgot about their own zone and gave up six goals in back-to-back games.

Gorges will never be an analytics darling much less a scorer, but having someone back their locked into defensive assignments has helped the team refocus their energies a bit. The Sabres have gotten progressively better on this road trip and despite Gorges' known shortcomings, he's a big part of why they've been able to pull it together on defense.


Jack Eichel was named the game's first star in Anaheim on Sunday, yet he didn't hit the scoresheet. Just goes to show that he was a strong presence the entire game, most notably in the d-zone where he backchecked hard and was on constantly on the puck making it difficult for the Ducks players.

Eichel needs to continue doing what he's been doing and that includes a focus on defense.

Perhaps he's learning what it's like to be a leader and he's finally discovering that the great player that lies within him can lift those around him. Seven points (2+6) in six games was expected although some may have thought that the goal-total would be a bit higher, but regardless, he's showing why many had him close to Connor McDavid heading into the 2015 NHL Draft.


Both Ryan O'Reilly and Sam Reinhart finally seem to be engaged and played probably their best games of the season on Sunday. Too bad it took so long, but it's good to see them coming to life.

Reinhart scored the game-winner late in the second period against Anaheim. After losing credit for the goal to Benoit Pouliot the NHL reversed their reversal and credited Reinhart with his first goal of the season. You could see the relief in his face at the huge monkey was lifted off of his back.

O'Reilly's yet to score a goal, but he's a professional and has been through this before. The big thing for the two-way center was to be fully engaged in a two-way game, something that was missing through the first three games. He's been progressively better throughout this road trip and it's no wonder that the team has gotten better as he has.


Gorges has played well in a third-pairing role but up top the duo of Rasmus Ristolainen and Marco Scandella have picked up their game as well. It was mentioned by WGR550 Radio's Paul Hamilton that their focus has been on the defensive zone and that once their more comfortable, Ristolainen will be able to join the rush a little more.

Although they haven't been perfect, they've only been together for three games. It seems as if they've developed some chemistry already and furthering that means that they'll only get better.


Chad Johnson will reportedly be in net for Buffalo tonight. It's something he earned with an extremely strong performance in Anaheim.

It's a rather bold move by coach Phil Housley, but they won their first game of the season with Johnson so why change?


However, it's also been reported that Housley has changed up his powerplay units a bit in an effort to bring them to life. The Sabres are only 2 for 22 (9.1%) with the man advantage this year and worse yet, they've given up a league-leading five shorthanded goals.

O'Reilly was moved to the second unit to make room for Kyle Okposo who's returning from illness.

The PP units from the morning skate according to the local media in attendance:

PP1--Eichel, Okposo, Reinhart, Pominville, Ristolainen
PP2--O'Reilly, Kane, Moulson, Beaulieu, Tennyson


And, finally, Dear Evander Kane. Please stay out of the penalty box. Not only does it hurt your team, but you can't score from there either.



Tuesday, October 17, 2017

A collective sigh of relief in Sabreland as Buffalo gets first win

Published by hockeybuzz.com, 10-16-17

The Buffalo Sabres got their first win of the season last night in Anaheim against a Ducks team that was depleted but still feisty. Buffalo's Phil Housley finally got his first win as an NHL head coach after five unsuccessful tries. "It feels great," said Housley to the gathered media post-game before "tipping his hat" to his players.

Buffalo gutted this one out as Anaheim, even without the likes of Ryan Kesler, Ryan Getzlaf, Hampus Lindholm and Sami Vatanen, just would not surrender after falling behind in the first period. The Ducks came at Buffalo hard in the second period and did so in the third as well. The Sabres, however, weathered those storms allowing only one goal.

Sabres goalie Chad Johnson was rock solid in net making some great saves, most notably in the second period, which included flashing the leather on a couple of occasions. One in particular came early in the second as Anaheim had a great opportunity on a 3-on-2 break with the Sabres up 1-0. Johnson did have a scary moment a bit later as he fell to the ice behind the net with the puck heading to the slot. Defenseman Marco Scandella bailed him out as he got a piece of Nick Ritchie's shot.

In addition to Housley's first career win and Johnsons' first win of the season, there were plent of positives from last night. Justin Bailey, who'd just been called up from Rochester got his first goal of the season only 1:26 into the game. Some hard work by a forechecking Zemgus Girgensons and a pinching Nathan Beaulieu, who recorded his first point as a Buffalo Sabre, set the wheels in motion on that one.

Forward Sam Reinhart may have played his best game of the season and was originally credited with the Sabres second goal before the NHL changed it. Benoit Pouliot got credit instead and notched his first goal of the season as well as his first as a Sabre. Johan Larsson notched his first point of the season (on the Bailey goal) and added an empty-netter for his first goal of the season.

Buffalo's Jack Eichel was named the games first star and he didn't even hit the scoresheet. Those watching Eichel was strong on the backcheck and seemed to be all over the defensive zone.

And as a team, the Sabres held firm on four penalty kills while continuing the Ducks misery on the powerplay as Anaheim has yet to score with the man advantage (0 for 21.)

Amidst the joy of Housley and his team's first win of the season plus the other first's that occurred, there were some blemishes.

Forward Evander Kane is tied for the team lead in points and goals but also leads them in minor penalties with six, which is tied for tops in the league. He had a critical tripping penalty very late in the game against the LA Kings on Saturday night which lead to a game-winning powerplay goal by the Kings' Drew Doughty. Last night he took three minor penalties, two for slashing under the new NHL crackdown.

The Sabres also allowed another shorthanded goal as Anaheim's Chris Wagner went in on a breakaway after Buffalo fumbled the puck at the Ducks blueline. It's the fifth shortie given up by the Sabres this season which leads the league. With the Wagner goal against, the Sabres surpassed last year's total of four shorties given up for the entire season.

Buffalo heads to Las Vegas with the monkey finally off of their back. In Anaheim not only did they find their first win, but they also found secondary scoring and some individual players are starting to come to life. In addition to Reinhart, Sabres center Ryan O'Reilly seems to have found his legs.

Right wing Kyle Okposo, who was downed by an illness for two of the three games on this road trip should be back in the lineup against the Golden Knights. However, fourth-line center Jacob Josefson was felled by a hit from behind in the second period and did not return. The journeyman forward had been playing very well as of late but may have suffered an ankle injury from the hit.

The Sabres have the bodies to replace Josefson, especially if Okposo returns as is expected, but Matt Moulson and Seth Griffith have only one point between them (a Griffith assist) and are a combined minus-6 in nine total games. Buffalo flew in Bailey for the Anaheim game and a player like Rochester's Kevin Porter might be appealing since the Amerks are off until Friday.

Despite the joy of that first win, the Sabres need to follow it up with another against an injury-riddled Vegas expansion team that lost starting goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. Malcom Subban, whom Vegas claimed off of waivers from the Boston Bruins less than two weeks ago, got the call yesterday and proceeded to beat his former team. But even with the one goal allowed against the Bruins, Subban still has a 3.45 GAA and .841 Sv% in three NHL starts.

This is a no-brainer. If the Sabres really want to start moving forward with this season, it begins with a win in Las Vegas against the expansion Golden Knights.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Sabres trying to get into the win column. Eichel in beast-mode.

Published by hockeybuzz.com, 10-15-2017

It just hasn't been in the cards yet for the Buffalo Sabers and new head coach Phil Housley. Five games into the season the Sabres are winless at 0-4-1 and they're still looking for players other than Evander Kane (4 goals,) Jason Pominville (4,) Jack Eichel (2) and now Zemgus Girgensons (1) who are capable of scoring. In all, that foursome has tallied 23 of Buffalo's 28 points this season.

Also missing from the Sabres game is their powerplay. Last year they lead the league with a 24.5% conversion rate but this year's a different story as they're only 17.1% (4 for 19) with the man advantage. And in sticking with special teams, the Sabres penalty kill had started out the season extinguishing all 11 PK's they faced through the first three games but have given up four goals in six opportunities since. That includes last night where the Kings scored on all three of their opportunities en route to a 4-2 win (which included an empty-net goal.)

If it ain't one thing, it's another for this club so far.

The good news for the Sabres is that Eichel is fully engaged and is playing like a player who knows that he needs to carry the team for a while. Eichel is off to a rambunctious start with seven points (2+5) in five games which ties him with Kane for the team lead. Last night he assisted on Girgensons' goal in the first period then tied the score at 2-2 in the third with one of his own as he barreled to the net and calmly deposited his own rebound.

I'll leave it for you to decide whether this was planned or not:

(Video via NHL.com)

Girgensons meanwhile has found life amidst the top-six most notably on Eichel's line. "The Latvian Locomotive" had two assists vs. San Jose' on Thursday night and had that goal last night but finished the game in Los Angeles on Ryan O'Reilly's line. Kane has seven points (4+3) in five games and Pominville has six (4+2.)

The Sabres are in desperate need of secondary scoring and no one in the bottom six has been able to provide any. Yesterday's third line of Johan Larsson centering Sam Reinhart and Seth Griffith have one point (a Griffith assist) and are a combined minus-16 with Reinhart at the bottom of the plus/minus category (minus-8) and Larsson just above him (minus-5.)

That's what happens when your line doesn't score.

Perhaps the recall of Rochester Americans forward Justin Bailey will be a kick in the pants for someone. Bailey is off to a strong start for the Amerks with two goals and a plus-2 rating in three games. The recall also represents another opportunity for Bailey himself. The 6'4" 214 lb. Buffalo native has had numerous opportunities throughout the last two seasons with the Sabres but has only been able to scrounge up four points (2+2) in 40 NHL games. Bailey's had some very good games without hitting the scoresheet, but the Sabres need a little more from him.

When the team gets back from their road trip, which ends with a Tuesday night game in Las Vegas, a few players may be up for re-evaluation and that includes Griffith and defenseman Matt Tennyson. Both players have been given an opportunity to show stick with the Sabres but neither have given the team a reason to keep them up outside of injuries.

One younger player, 24 yr. old rookie defenseman Victor Antipin, has already been relegated to the press box after a rough start to the season. Antipin was replaced by veteran Josh Gorges who helped  stabilized the defense corps.

Housley himself also needs to do some self-evaluation. Having Griffith out there with less than a minute to play and the goalie pulled last night was a head-scratcher and I'm not sure where his faith in Nathan Beaulieu (zero points in five games) comes from either. With Zach Bogosian and Justin Falk out with injuries, players like Beaulieu and Tennyson are in the lineup and have been put in positions  above their talent-level so Housley pretty much has no choice. But some of the choices he's made with his defense-corps, which includes second-pairing minutes for Tennyson, seem rather questionable.

Most importantly for Housley, he needs to find a home for Reinhart who's an absolute mess out there. Reinhart scored 40 goals and 89 points over the last two seasons while playing on Eichel's wing and the manning the front of the net on the first powerplay unit. Housley had him centering the third line to start the season and now has him on Larsson's wing but regardless of where he's been, Reinhart's confidence level seems to be reaching a low not seen since his nine-game NHL debut in 2014-15.

That said, tonight represents another chance for Housley to get his first win as a head coach and it comes against an Anaheim Ducks team that they've had at least some success against. Last season the Sabres toppled the Ducks 2-1  on the road in the shootout as goalie Anders Nilsson got the win, Ryan O'Reilly scored Buffalo's only goal (from Jake McCabe and Eichel,) and Girgensons ended a 10-round shootout with the game-winning tally.

Word from Anaheim is that Housley announced Chad Johnson as Buffalo's starting goalie. Dan Arritt of NHL.com calls Johnson one of his Players to Watch saying this of the Sabres goalie, "Johnson made 44 saves in a 3-0 win at Honda Center on Dec. 17, 2015, a Sabres record for saves in a regulation shutout."

Housley also said, according to WGR550's Paul Hamilton, that Bailey will be in the lineup but there was no indication from the coach who would be out of the lineup, save for Kyle Okposo who remains ill.

Here's Arritt's possible lineup for tonight which seems mighty reasonable to me:


Forward scratches--Moulson

On defense:


Defense scratch--Antipin

Game time is 9:00 pm EST, with pregame at 8:30 pm.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Sabres searching for first win (and secondary scoring) in L.A. (Yikes!)

Published by hockeybuzz.com, 10-14-2017

When the Buffalo Sabres hit the ice at KeyBank Center for their season opener they had a new coach and a new on-ice philosophy based upon speed and generating shots. It went pretty well for them as most in attendance and watching on TV liked the up-tempo style of play and it seemed as if the players responded well to this new style. Everything was going swimmingly until the eight-minute mark of the third period when they lost their 2-1 lead on a shorthanded goal. To overtime we went and when they couldn't win it 3-on-3, well...we know how things tend to go in shootouts.

That shortie by Montreal Canadiens forward Philip Danault was like a first lightning strike in a huge storm that was about to overtake the Sabres. Dark clouds gathered over the team when they travelled to Brooklyn as the NY Islanders struck for three goals in a 1:47 second span of the second period. The first two were shorthanded goals and the third would have been had the Islanders penalty not expired a handful of seconds prior.

The bolts just kept coming afterwards as the New Jersey Devils came to town and scored three unanswered goals in the second period while on their way to a 6-2 win. The first goal of that trio was, of course, a shortie.

Perhaps we've seen the worst that this incarnation of the Buffalo Sabres has to offer. The stat-line through three games is pretty ugly as they went 0-2-1, were outscored 14-7, went 2/13 on the powerplay and allowed four shorthanded goals. About the only bright spot came from their penalty kill which snuffed all 11 opportunities against.

A four-game West Coast swing began on Thursday night in San Jose' and the Sabres tightened things up. Although they still lost, 3-2, they seemed to have gotten their game back to where it was against the Canadiens. Their skating was much better and it looks as if Sabres head coach Phil Housley found some line combinations and defensive pairings he can move forward with.

Zemgus Girgensons brought an edge and some balls-to-the-wall north/south skating to his line with center Jack Eichel. RW Jason Pominville was twice the beneficiary of Girgensons work and Eichel's deft set-up ability.

Left wing Evander Kane brought his four goals and a strong-skating, powerforward game to a line with center Ryan O'Reilly and seemingly brought the latter to life. Kyle Okposo, who missed the morning skate with an illness, was at his usual spot on O'Reilly's right side and generated five shots on goal for the game.

On defense, Marco Scandella was moved up to the top pairing with Rasmus Ristolainen and much maligned defensive defenseman Josh Gorges added some stability to the back-end.

Tonight the 0-3-1 Sabres hit The Staples Center in Los Angeles, California for a date with the LA Kings, which is rather frightening when you consider the Sabres haven't scored a goal against the Kings in Southern California since January, 21 2010. Buffalo blew one-goal leads twice in that game and lost 4-3 in the shootout. Sabres captain Craig Rivet was the last Buffalo player to score a goal at Staples Center as he snuck in from the point on the weak side and buried his first goal of the season.

Since then Buffalo has lost all four meetings in Los Angeles by the exact same 2-0 score and havd done so under three different coaches--Ron Rolston, Ted Nolan and Dan Bylsma (twice.) The Sabres were outshot in each of those four games by a combined 138-97 margin. If that weren't enough the Sabres have not won at the arena in Los Angeles since a 5-1 victory on October 23, 2003.

Buffalo heads into tonight's matchup against the 2-0-1 Kings with multiple goal-scorers in each of the team's first four games as Pominville and Kane each have a pair of two goal games. Unfortunately for the Sabres, other than those goals and one from Jack Eichel, no one else has been able to light the lamp.

After the loss to San Jose' Thursday night, Housley said that his players are not getting to the areas were goals are scored nor are they creating any traffic in front of the opposition goalies. "You've got to get dirty, to the hard area," he said to the media after practice yesterday. "We're going to continue to work on that and it's a big area we need to improve on. ... That's a niche guys make livings on."

Tonight's game is the first of 16 back-to-backs for Buffalo this season as they'll face the Anaheim Ducks tomorrow. Buffalo was 14-17-3 in the first game of back-to-backs under Bylsma the past two seasons, 12-19-3 in the second game.

Game time is 10:30 pm EST.

And for those who would like to revisit the game in which the Sabres last scored a goal at Staples Center, Paul Hamilton and Harry Neal are in the both in this highlight video on YouTube from mcsyns: