Friday, November 24, 2017

Will health help the Sabres climb out of the morass their in?

Published by, 11-22-2017

The 5-12-4 record says it all and the attendance figures at KeyBank Center lately (announced attendance for the last game was 16,551 but looked like a lot less) backs up the notion that the product on the ice in Buffalo isn't really that good.

So much for the Captain Obvious moment.

Why this Buffalo Sabres team is off to such a horrible start is varied, dependent upon who you ask, and it's a multitude of things that are keeping this team to depths of the standings right now.  The tangibles include a lack of overall team speed and talent, namely in the support roles while lack of compete and leadership headline the intangible side of the equation. Other aspects like injuries and a rookie head coach should also be factored in as well.

With that said, the Sabres head into tonight's matchup against the Minnesota Wild a little healthier up front as center Jacob Josefson is expected to return to the lineup. Josefson went down in a game at Anaheim back in October.

It's not like the return of the 26 yr. old center is expected to single-handedly turn this thing around, but he adds positive elements to a team in need of all the positives they can get their hands on. Josefson will once again anchor the fourth line and will stabilize the middle of the ice. "[Josefson] is somebody you can trust to play in any situation, especially on our penalty kill," said Housley to the gathered media yesterday after practice. "He can relieve some minutes off of our top guys.

"He provides speed and positionally he's one of the best on our team. Very reliable."

Josefson, a former first round pick (20th-overall, NJD) was signed on July 1 by Sabres GM Jason Botterill, had zero points in five-plus games for Buffalo before his injury. At yesterday's practice Housley had him centering Jordan Nolan and Kyle Okposo.

Okposo was dropped by Housley to the fourth line due to largely ineffective play. As we saw with the demotion of Jack Eichel to the third line, only to be back up on the first line at practice yesterday, it might simply be an attempt to jar him out of his slump.

"Kyle's a tremendous competitor," said Housley of Okposo. "He evaluates his game and really gets down on himself. Obviously he would really like to contribute more offensively and he holds that burden on himself. But I think if he continues to work at both ends of the rink and [take] what the game can give him and keep going hard to the net he's going to continue to get those opportunities."

Okposo has two goals and eight points in 19 games this year and is a second-worst minus-12 on the team.

The Sabres had an optional skate today, but these were the lines from yesterday's practice according to


Matt Moulson and Seth Griffith were the extras.


Reports from the rink had two inured defensemen skating at today's optional practice--Zach Bogosian and Rasmus Ristolainen.

Bogosian has yet to play this season and Ristolainen has missed the last eight Sabres games.

Buffalo's blueline has been ravaged by injuries this season to the tune of 10 defensemen dressing for the club so far this season with another in Casey Nelson who was called up but has yet to play. Players like Matt Tennyson (who is currently injured) and Justin Falk (who started the season on IR) have played as good as can be expected considering they were placed in positions well above their talent-level. Buffalo's ninth and 10th d-men--Zach Redmond and Taylor Fedun (who is also on the injured list)--were also place in difficult positions and did the best they could with Fedun looking like a legit NHL'er.

Having Bogosian go down is one thing as not only was this a seemingly annual trip to IR for the 27 yr. old, he was also slated for second-pairing duties, but losing Ristolainen really hurt.

Most will say that Ristolainen was having a rough year both in production and overall play, but he was a workhorse once again for the Sabres on the back-end averaging 27:09 a night, 20:24 at even strength. When he went down with his upper body injury he was tied with d-partner Marco Scandella at a minus-4 plus which was tops amongst Sabres defensemen.

As was mentioned in the last blog, the Sabres have been atrocious in his absence. A quick update has them on a six-game winless streak (0-4-2) and are 1-5-2 without him in the lineup. The team has scored 14 goals and has allowed 26 goals against.

Falk has been skating on the top pair in Ristolainen's absence and has been doing yeoman's work despite playing a role that's a couple spots higher than where he should be, which is true for all the defensemen not named Scandella.

At yesterday's skate, here's what the pairings were:



Robin Lehner took part in the optional skate today, according to John Vogl of The Buffalo News. Vogl tweeted that the others on the ice were Ristolainen, Bogosian, Tennyson, Nelson, Nolan, Griffith, Criscuolo, Josefson, Moulson.


One final note, forwards Tyler Ennis and Marcus Foligno are back in town to face off against their former team for the first time. The duo was traded to the Minnesota Wild for Scandella and Pominville on June 30th.

Ennis, who was a first round pick for Buffalo (26th, 2008) has five points (3+2) in 20 games for Minnesota while Foligno has seven points (3+4) in 19 games.

While Foligno chose his father Mike's old number 17 to wear in Minnesota, Ennis will be donning a more familiar #63.

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