Saturday, April 7, 2018

Housley gives lines a big shake for Game-81 @ Tampa Bay

Published by, 4-6-2018

As a team, the Buffalo Sabres have nothing to play for in their final two games of the season. The Sabres secured last place with a 4-2 loss against the Ottawa Senators in their home finale on Wednesday and now finish off the season in Florida with games against the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight and the Florida Panthers tomorrow night.

Of note, both Tampa and Florida have something to play for against the Sabres. The Lightning are presently tied with the Boston Bruins atop the Eastern Conference with 110 points and own the tiebreaker. Both teams have two games remaining and winning the conference means the eastern road to the Stanley Cup will go through the city and team who comes out on top. The Panthers are in a struggle to make the playoffs as they presently sit four points out of the final wild card spot in the east. They need to win both games, including one in regulation or overtime, and have the Philadelphia Flyers lose tomorrow afternoon at home against the NY Rangers.

As the Sabres season comes to a close a wave of young players will be on the ice tying to make an impression upon Buffalo's brass. Recently signed Casey Mittelstadt and Wednesday call-up Alexander Nylander joined the likes of Brendan Guhle, Nicolas Baptiste and goalie Linus Ullmark in Buffalo's lineup to close out the season. All save for Mittelstadt will be heading to Rochester  to prepare for the Calder Cup playoffs when they return from Florida.

On Wednesday vs. the Senators, head coach Phil Housley moved some players around in the first period and stuck with the remade lines through the next 30 minutes or so. He moved Mittelstadt from center to left wing on Jack Eichel's line and moved Evan Rodrigues back to center with Nylander on his left wing.

Rodrigues is a fast skater, quick to the puck and always has his feet moving with purpose. Nylander seemed like what Rodrigues was doing and the duo looked pretty comfortable with each other. On the right side of that line was veteran Kyle Okposo.

The move of Mittelstadt to Eichel's wing was interesting as the kid got off to a slow start and looked like he was having a bit of trouble with the move to wing. Having said that, Mittelstadt has the skill, skating, awareness and competitive spirit to play anywhere up-front and one would think that with a little time, the 19 yr. old would be able to adapt to playing wing on Eichel's line. Aged veteran Jason Pominville was on that line and once again proved that he looks every bit the 35 yr. old he is.

The other line in the top nine consisted of a trio that have played together since the beginning of an early-March homestand. Ryan O'Reilly has been centering Sam Reinhart on the right and Scott Wilson on the left and they've been used consistently by Housley over the last four weeks or so.

According to reports from the rink today, Housley mixed things up at the morning skate. Here were the lines:


On defense, Housley continues to mix things up in his top four. Rasmus Ristolainen and Marco Scandella were paired recently but he split them up again. Here's the projected d-parings for tonight:


BTW, I love Rick Jeanneret, but according to the media guide Brendan Guhle's last name is pronounced  GOO-lee, not GOO-lay as Jeanneret likes to pronounce it. Somebody please inform him that it's not Brendan Goulet skating out there for Buffalo.

All three goalies--Chad Johnson, Linus Ullmark and Alex Wilcox--were out there for the morning skate and word is that Johnson will get the start.

Game time is slated for 7:30 pm at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida.

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