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  1. James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports Buffalo returns to the KeyBank Center for the first time in 12 days. Game 18 Buffalo Sabres (9-6-2) vs. Carolina Hurricanes (10-7-1) Puck Drop: 7:00 PM EST | KeyBank Center | Buffalo, NY TV: MSG-B Radio: WGR 550 SB Nation Hurricanes Blog: Canes Country Know Your Opponent Carolina Hurricanes Record: (10-7-1) | 21 PTS Last 10: 4-5-1 Division Ranking: 5th in Metropolitan Division Conference Ranking: 9th in Eastern Conference PP: 11th (22.4%) PK: 14th (91.8%) What to Watch 1. The Wrong Kind of Streak The Buffalo Sabres return to the KeyBank Center ice after five days off, following their back-to-back appearances in Sweden. Buffalo currently finds themselves on the wrong kind of streak - a prolonged losing streak. In the month of November, the Sabres are 0-4-0 with an average of 1.5 goals scored per game. Not a very good attempt at promoting a winning hockey product. 2. Odd Man Out Buffalo finds themselves getting healthy on the blueline, which understandably creates a scenario where someone might just find themselves on the outside looking in. On Thursday night, all signs point to that player being Colin Miller. Marco Scandella participated in practice on Wednesday morning and appears ready to return to the lineup for the first time since October 24. With Zach Bogosian returning to practice as well, something might need to give sooner than later. 3. Testing Depth As reported on Wednesday, forward Vladimir Sobotka will miss four-to-six weeks with a lower-body injury. Safe to presume that Sobotka is nursing some sort of knee injury, judging by how he last left the ice in Sweden. Sobotka’s absence provides a test for the Buffalo Sabres depth, which starts with giving Curtis Lazar a shot in Sobotka’s absence. Will Lazar stick around or will Jason Botterill need to go to the next man in line? Only time will tell. Game Prediction Projected Lineup Buffalo Sabres Forwards Victor Olofsson - Jack Eichel - Sam Reinhart Jeff Skinner - Evan Rodrigues - Conor Sheary Jimmy Vesey - Casey Mittelstadt - Curtis Lazar Zemgus Girgensons - Johan Larsson - Kyle Okposo Defense Rasmus Dahlin - Brandon Montour Jake McCabe - Rasmus Ristolainen Marco Scandella - Henri Jokiharju Starting Goaltender: Carter Hutton Carolina Hurricanes Forwards Ryan Dzingel - Jordan Staal - Warren Foegele Andrei Svechnikov - Sebastian Aho - Teuvo Teravainen Nino Niederreiter - Lucas Wallmark - Martin Necas Brock McGinn - Eetu Luostarinen - Brian Gibbons Defense Jaccob Slavin - Dougie Hamilton Joel Edmundson - Brett Pesce Jake Gardiner - Haydn Fleury Starting Goaltender: Petr Mrazek View the full article
  2. James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports Sabres host the Carolina Hurricanes as they look to snap a five-game losing streak The Buffalo Sabres look to snap a five-game losing streak tonight when they host the Carolina Hurricanes. View the full article
  3. Micheline V | Rochester Americans The Amerks will look to bounce back following an ugly loss in their only game last week. Amerks Games This Week Wednesday - 11/13 - 7:05pm - vs Syracuse (7-4-2-0) Friday - 11/15 - 7:05pm - vs Cleveland (8-6-0-1) Saturday - 11/16 - 7:00pm - at Utica (9-5-0-0) AHL North Division Standings as of November 13th The Amerks went 0-0-0-1 last week as the North Division begins to tighten up with just six points separating first place from last place. What Happened Last Week? Record Nov 6-Nov 12: 0-0-0-1 Check out our latest Amerks Review post for details on last week’s performance. Notable: The Amerks’ power play continues to sink to new (possibly record) lows. They currently rank 30th of 31 teams in the league, with just 6 goals in 65 attempts... that’s just 9.2%. It gets even more concerning when you look at their PP on home ice alone; I’ve never seen a number this low: 3.1%. The team ranks in the top third of the league with 65 PP opportunities. They’re getting plenty of chances, but have yet to find a way to capitalize. Also Notable: The penalty kill hasn’t been much better. The team ranks in the bottom third of the league in PK situations, so they aren’t necessarily taking too many penalties. However, at just a 75% kill rate, they rank 29th in the league. Three Stars It was a quiet week and the lone game was a disappointing loss in which the team gave up a game-tying goal with under a minute remaining in regulation. Not much to celebrate there. Stats Leaders Look Ahead With the Sabres back in North America, the Amerks can return to their regularly scheduled programming, including the standard Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday games. While we’re only 13 games into the season, it’s never too early to focus on gaining points - particularly within the division - and all three of this week’s games are against divisional foes. The biggest storyline for the team in the next month+ will be to see how they respond to the adversity of losing several of their best players to injuries and long-term recalls. C.J. Smith and Jarrett Burton will both be out with major injuries until close to the new year. Curtis Lazar was just recalled to Buffalo to fill the hole left by the long-term injury to Vladimir Sobotka. Should Buffalo suffer any additional injuries to their forwards, Amerks leading scorer Tage Thompson would almost certainly be the next man up. The 19 games between now and the new year may well determine if the Amerks are genuine contenders come playoff time. Wednesday night brings Syracuse back into town for their third of twelve matchups on the season. The Amerks have won the previous two meetings, both in overtime. Friday night will be Cleveland’s second trip into Rochester as the teams will face each other for the second of eight matchups this season. Cleveland won the previous meeting via the shootout after the Amerks gave up a late third period lead. Saturday night will be the third of ten games against Utica. The teams split the two previous meetings - both of them blowout 6-goal wins. Utica started the season red-hot but has since cooled off dramatically. Transactions November 9, 2019 - Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (G) - ⬇️ from Rochester to Cincinnati November 10, 2019 - Pascal Aquin (F) - ⬆️ from Cincinnati to Rochester November 11, 2019 - Lawrence Pilut (D) - ⬇️ from Buffalo to Rochester November 13, 2019 - Curtis Lazar (F) - ⬆️ from Rochester to Buffalo Video Room Game 13 - 11/8/2019 - Home Loss (SO) vs Binghamton Injury Report C.J. Smith - Lower Body - Week-to-Week. CJ suffered what appears to be a lower-body injury early in the first period of the game vs Utica on November 2nd. He was helped off the ice and did not return to the game. Early reports are that he’ll be out for quite some time. Zach Redmond - Lower Body - Day-to-Day. Redmond was also injured in the game on November 2nd. He did not play after the first period. No official word from the team yet as to his status, but I’d guess he takes advantage of the Amerks’ light schedule in the next two weeks and they don’t rush him back. Taylor Leier - Shoulder - Week-to-Week. Leier had offseason shoulder surgery. He has returned to skating with the team in practices, but is still in no-contact mode. Remi Elie - Lower Body - Day-to-Day. Expected back soon. Has missed time as preventative maintenance. Jarrett Burton - Lower Body - Week-to-Week. Burton was hit awkwardly into the boards on 11/8 and crawled to the bench. He did not return and is currently on crutches. Farmville The Cincinnati Cyclones are 7-4-1-0 in their quest to return to the top of the ECHL and avenge last season’s premature ending. They finished 2018-2019 with the best record in the league but fell to rival Toledo in the second round of the playoffs. Old Friends Justin Bailey: 3+4=7 in 14 games with AHL Utica Nicholas Baptiste: 0+2=2 in 7 games with AHL Toronto. Kyle Criscuolo: 4+3=7 in 12 games with AHL Lehigh Valley Jack Dougherty: 1+4=5 in 12 games with AHL Belleville Brendan Guhle: 1+3=4 in 4 games with AHL San Diego, 0+3=3 in 8 games with NHL Anaheim Alexander Nylander: 2+5=7 in 16 games with NHL Chicago Danny O’Regan: 2+8=10 in 15 games with AHL Hartford Matt Tennyson: 0+0=0 in 1 game with AHL Binghamton, 0+3=3 in 10 games with NHL New Jersey Scott Wedgewood: 3-1-1-0, 3.33 GAA, .881 SV% in 6 game with AHL Syracuse View the full article
  4. Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images The Sabres were swept in Sweden by the Lightning and have now lost five straight The latest episode of Beyond The Blade is live. As we all know, things didn’t go well in Sweden against the Tampa Bay Lightning. After being swept, the Buffalo Sabres returned home on a five-game losing streak. Fans are beginning to fear a repeat of last season. We start off the podcast this week by welcoming Anthony Sciandra back into the mix after a few weeks off. Then I go over the latest rumor update from the weekend on a potential trade that could be coming for the Sabres. After that we get into some of the struggles with the team including the failure to generate offense, lack of depth scoring, defense, and more. We even touch on the pressure general manager Jason Botterill is facing to make sure this doesn’t get out of control again. As per usual, in the second half of the podcast we answer questions from listeners on a variety of topics. You can listen to the full podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, and at the link below. View the full article
  5. Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports The Buffalo Sabres dropped a large handful of roster-related news on Wednesday morning. The Buffalo Sabres had themselves quite a little news dump on Wednesday morning. On the injury front, there were both good and bad updates passed along. Sabres/Amerks injury report for Wednesday, November 13. pic.twitter.com/atdZINdcs3 — Sabres PR (@SabresPR) November 13, 2019 Starting down on the farm with the Rochester Americans, the biggest news of the day is the loss of forward C.J. Smith. Smith has played an integral role in Rochester’s early season success, with six points (three goals, three assists) in 12 games. With a four-to-six week lower body injury, Rochester will find themselves in somewhat of a pinch to replace Smith. With the big club, there is good news to be had on the injury front. While Zach Bogosian is termed as “week-to-week”, he is expected to practice with the team on Wednesday. This is the next step back on Bogosian’s long road to recovery from offseason hip surgery. Marco Scandella’s status was also updated to day-to-day and it remains to be seen when he will return to the lineup. Defensively, the log jam is heading towards a breaking point with Buffalo’s blueline finally regaining its health. Offensively, Marcus Johansson is nursing an upper-body injury and is day-to-day. It is currently unknown if this will affect Johansson’s status for Thursday’s game against Carolina. As for Vladimir Sobotka, we have been awaiting the news and it is not good. Following a questionable hit against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Sweden, Sobotka appeared to be in a world of hurt. Unable to leave the ice without assistance, Sobotka has been confirmed to have suffered a lower-body injury and will miss at least four-to-six weeks. Nikita Kucherov goes low on Vladimir Sobotka pic.twitter.com/oZxJIgt81r — Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) November 8, 2019 In Sobotka’s absence, an opportunity presents itself for forward Curtis Lazar. The Sabres have announced the following roster news. pic.twitter.com/mkIn1H7SmS — Sabres PR (@SabresPR) November 13, 2019 Lazar rejoins the Sabres on his second recall of the season. In 11 games with the Rochester Americans this season, Lazar tallied nine points (four goals, five assists). It is believed that Lazar earned the first crack at the open roster spot due to his strong training camp, where he impressed many within the organization. View the full article
  6. Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images Sabres return from Sweden in midst of slump The Buffalo Sabres are back from Sweden, and it’s time to get back to the business of the NHL regular season. After picking up two losses to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the past few days, the Sabres will return to action on Thursday. Before we get there, here’s a few things we can take away from their recent trip: 1. They’re (still) having offensive troubles. Sam Reinhart knows how to score goals. Jack Eichel is pretty good at hockey. So is Jeff Skinner. But overall, the Sabres are still having trouble finding depth scoring. In order for the team to succeed, you need more players stepping up offensively - particularly among the forwards. Victor Olofsson scored in Saturday’s loss, but aside from that, it’s been far too long since any of the other forwards on the team have scored. (The last was Vladimir Sobotka, back on October 24.) Not great. 2. Special teams could use some polishing up. The Sabres allowed one power-play goal in Friday’s loss to the Lightning, and failed to capitalize on two advantages of their own. Things were even worse on Saturday, as Buffalo gave up two power-play goals to Pat Maroon and Victor Hedman. They again failed to capitalize on either of their own advantages. Head coach Ralph Krueger was quick to point out that both the power play and penalty killing units let the team down this weekend. Overall, the Sabres still have the fifth-best power play in the league (25.0%), but their penalty killing has dropped significantly. - now at 77.1%, 24th overall in the league. (For comparison’s sake, San Jose’s penalty kill is running at 91.2%, while Pittsburgh has the best penalty kill in the Eastern Conference, at 87.5%). 3. It turns out Victor Oloffson can score at even-strength! Finally, Olofsson scored at 5-on-5. We all knew it was coming eventually, but it’s no doubt refreshing for fans, media and the player himself to see it come to fruition. And what a move it was, too Okay yea Sabres lost and Bills lost, but what about this pass from Jack to set up Olofsson who powers through Victor Hedman to score. In slo motion. So. Yea. pic.twitter.com/VaNUeriwAc — Luke (@haag_luke) November 11, 2019 4. Mid-season international trips are a bit strange. While it’s undoubtedly a cool experience for the team to travel like this, and for fans overseas to be able to experience NHL hockey in person, it’s hard to ignore that doing an international trip like this, in the middle of the season, is a bit strange. The Sabres had a week between games, some lengthy flights, a significant time zone change, then a pair of games that started less than 24 hours apart... before more lengthy flights, time zone changes back to Eastern time, and now, a few days to recuperate before getting back to game action. 5. Whether we like it or not, the Sabres are in a slump. The two games in Sweden showcased a slumping Sabres team that is just having trouble stringing anything together right now. Buffalo is now on a five-game losing streak, 1-5-1 in their last six games and 9-6-2 overall. How they come back from this Europe trip, and how they show up on Thursday against the Hurricanes, will set the pace for the next few weeks of hockey - and these are big weeks ahead. After dropping two to a division rival (Tampa), six of their ten remaining games in the month of November are also against divisional opponents. These are crucial points that can make the difference when April comes around. View the full article
  7. Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images The early season trade rumors continue for the Sabres and the rest of the NHL Sabres Pierre LeBrun confirmed the trade rumors of the Buffalo Sabres interest in acquiring a forward sooner rather than later on TSN’s Insider Trading. INSIDER TRADING: #TSNHockey Insiders discuss... Coach Gretzky at Spengler Cup? #NHL players eligible for #WorldJuniors Frustration for struggling Stars Leafs’ goalie situation Oilers/Puljujarvi Sabres seeking Top 9 forward WATCH : https://t.co/aymsAzmj1j pic.twitter.com/MshkH46TMY — TSN Hockey (@TSNHockey) November 12, 2019 NHL The Los Angeles Kings have reportedly informed Ilya Kovalchuk that they’ll no longer dress him in their lineup. [The Fourth Period] Mitch Marner will be out for the Toronto Maple Leafs with a high-ankle sprain. [TSN] View the full article
  8. Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports SB Nation’s FanPulse voters have spoken - are the Buffalo Sabres pretenders or contenders? The Buffalo Sabres hot start to the 2019-20 National Hockey League season has many excited for what potentially is to come, despite the team’s recent skid. For the most part, you will find yourself a group of hyped-up Buffalonians ready to tell you how this team has made the next step under new head coach Ralph Krueger. Through 17 games, the Sabres have a record of 9-6-2. This puts Buffalo in 10th place in the Eastern Conference, with 20 points. According to SB Nation’s “Pretenders or Contenders” FanPulse voters, the league-wide confidence in the Buffalo Sabres appears to be a little uneasy. With the recent skid likely scaring a few FanPulse voters into the “Pretenders” category, Buffalo still finds themselves trending in the right direction. While the Carolina Hurricanes (10-7-1) rank first in this poll, with over 80% belief that they are a contender, the Buffalo Sabres barely edged out the New York Islanders to rank second. There still remains work to be done for the Sabres to reach the levels in which the Hurricanes currently poll out at, but the tide continues to slowly-but-surely turn toward the better for the Buffalo Sabres. View the full article
  9. Micheline Veluvolu / Rochester Americans In Rochester’s only game of the week, a win was in their grasp but slipped away. Only one game to talk about from last week! Rochester’s Friday night at the Blue Cross Arena ended up being a see-saw affair. Rochester held two leads throughout the game but would ultimately fall in a shootout. There were some exciting moments in this game, which we will talk about below. Results November 8 – Binghamton 4, Rochester 3 (SO) ROC: ROC: E. Cornel (1), C. Lazar (4), T. Thompson (6) ROC: J. Johansson – 25 saves (L – 2-2-2) Three Big Things 1: Tage on Top Tage Thompson continues to shine down in Rochester. Another strong game for Thompson included his team-leading sixth goal of the season. While Curtis Lazar might be the first to get a shot at replacing Vladimir Sobotka, who is expected to miss time with a knee injury, Thompson is working his way into the conversation. It seems that the Buffalo Sabres plan to develop Thompson might just be working itself out. 2: Struggled to Maintain The one big negative from the game on Friday night was the Rochester Americans’ inability to maintain a lead. After one period, the Americans led 2-0. Binghamton would score the next two goals, unanswered. Rochester took a lead minutes later but would relinquish the lead for the final time late in the third. One has to hope this trend does not continue. 3: Gotta Catch ‘Em All Through their first 13 games, the Rochester Americans have had the opportunity to amass 26 total points. Rochester has been able to tally 17 of those possible 26, including points in eight of their last 10 games. Standings Coming Up Wednesday, November 13 - Rochester Americans vs Syracuse Crunch Friday, November 15 - Rochester Americans vs Cleveland Monsters Saturday, November 16 - Rochester Americans at Utica Comets View the full article
  10. Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images The Sabres need more from Jimmy Vesey as depth scoring continues to be an issue This summer, when the Buffalo Sabres sent a 2020 3rd-round draft pick to the New York Rangers in exchange for forward Jimmy Vesey, the acquisition drew mixed reviews. Some were excited to see the team add what they perceived to be a potential 20-goal scorer (even though he had never once reached that benchmark in his three years with the Rangers). Others still held a bizarre grudge against him for electing not to sign with the Sabres when Tim Murray initially traded for his rights in 2016. Analytically inclined members of the fan base expressed some concern over his negative defensive impacts, which seemed to negate every one of his modestly positive offensive metrics since turning pro. Through the first 17 games of the 2019-20 season, Vesey looks less like a potential 20-goal presence, and more like the net-negative impact player that we saw in New York. It’s still early, and some players might take longer to adjust to the new system, but at the moment, an argument can be made that Vesey has been the least effective Buffalo forward at 5-on-5 thus far. We’ll start by examining his performance as a shooter to this point. For a player whom many expected to provide some semblance of a goal-scoring impact, he has been virtually useless in that regard. Not only has he failed to register a goal as a member of the blue-and-gold, but he’s failed to position himself in high-danger areas with any degree of regularity. As evidenced above, his expected-goals rate has taken a sharp, continuous nosedive since the beginning of the year, and has only very recently experienced a modest uptick. He positioned himself for a few solid opportunities during the Global Series against the Tampa Bay Lightning, but ultimately failed to convert on those chances. What’s interesting is the impact he’s had on his most consistent linemates, Conor Sheary and Casey Mittelstadt (and vice-versa). Stating that their respective Corsi numbers have been better away from Vesey than alongside him doesn’t come as much of a surprise. What is a bit more intriguing is the fact that Vesey’s Corsi metrics are actually notably better away from those two. As a trio, they’ve produced a Corsi-for percentage of 40.0, and an expected-goals percentage of 31.61 so far, which is downright dreadful. However, in the time Vesey has spent without Sheary and Mittelstadt, his individual numbers increase to 51.13 and 44.84, respectively. Obviously, it isn’t an earth-shattering difference, but it’s still significantly better. Ralph Krueger has split them up to an extent over the past few games, so perhaps he recognized that line simply wasn’t working. Still, as it stands, Vesey ranks dead-last among Sabres forwards from an adjusted expected goals-for standpoint. Regardless of who he lines up with moving forward, he needs to be better individually. As previously mentioned, one of the big concerns upon Vesey’s arrival pertained to his shortcomings defensively. That trend (which has been the case throughout his entire professional career) has remained consistent. Not only is he contributing less of an offensive impact with the Sabres, but he’s given back every bit of offensive production and then some, with his abysmal defensive impacts. To extrapolate on the overall point-production issue, the base-stats impact extends beyond his poor play at even-strength. Vesey’s special-teams deployment has also been a little different under Kruger, compared to his time with the Rangers. From 2016-2019, Vesey was a contributor on the power-play in New York, registering 15 of his 90 career points on the man-advantage. So far, he has not appeared at all on the Sabres’ second power-play unit. None of this is particularly surprising given what was already known about him coming in, but it still begs the question; why would Jason Botterill part with an asset in order to acquire this player? Jason Pominville, a proven positive impact winger who is still capable of producing in a middle-six role, likely would have cost a similar amount of cap space to retain for another year as a free agent. Nothing about Vesey’s performance so far has justified the acquisition, or the decision to opt for him over Pominville. Maybe Botterill was hoping to drive up Vesey’s value in a contract year and turn him around for a profit, but even that is (and always was) a stretch. So what’s the solution? How can the Sabres get the most out of this player while also keeping him from negatively impacting his linemates? One solution might be to start playing him opposite Sam Reinhart, a forward with whom he has produced solid numbers in small doses this season. Through 23:21 together at 5-on-5, Vesey and Reinhart currently hold a Corsi-for percentage of 56.82, and an xGF of 52.48-percent. Given the modest sample size, there’s no way to tell if that is sustainable, but Reinhart is one of the few players on the Sabres roster who has actually been better (analytically) with Vesey than without him. Placing him with Vesey and either Marcus Johansson or Evan Rodrigues down the middle might be worth trying for an extended period of time. Not only could it optimize a struggling asset, but it would give Reinhart the opportunity to drive his own line, something he’s certainly capable of doing away from Jack Eichel. To date, a strong argument can be made that he’s been the team’s most consistent, reliable forward through 17 games. Only a few options exist that would help account for Vesey’s defensive shortcomings while also optimizing his offensive skill set (without breaking up the ever-effective “LOG” line). Either way, a trade that was head-scratching from the beginning, continues to look ill advised early on. While he Vesey proven somewhat useful as a penalty-killer this season, that’s not why he was brought in. Registering a mere two assists in 14 games-played to start a contract year is not what either party had in mind. The Sabres have now gone five straight games without a goal from a forward not named Reinhart, Eichel, Skinner, or Olofsson. That’s simply unacceptable, and if players like Vesey don’t start becoming part of the solution in that regard, the team will continue to fall in the standings. RAPM Chart courtesy of Evolving-Hockey xGF Graph and Shot Map courtesy of Charting Hockey Corsi, Relative xGF, and Linemate Metrics courtesy of Natural Stat Trick View the full article
  11. The Sabres need help at forward, and there are a wide array of targets available. Here we go again. After a hot start to the season, the Sabres have now dropped five straight. In a spooky deja vu moment, they have dropped from first place in the NHL to out of a playoff spot in a matter of a few weeks. However, in comparison to last season, the Sabres are equipped with a much deeper roster and hold some interesting cards to play as their defensemen get healthy. It is widely anticipated that Jason Botterill is considering his trade options, perhaps even pushing to make a deal, and is likely looking for an upgrade or two at forward. Let’s explore some of the most likely trade targets and what they might bring to the club as an asset. The first name a familiar one, as I actually brought his name up as a target in my first DBTB piece at the turn of the new year - Tyler Toffoli. Toffoli was anticipated to be a name available come trade deadline, given that he will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season and there are no contract negotiations with the Kings in sight. However, to add fuel to the fire, Toffoli has quickly fallen out of favor with new head coach Todd McLellan, who sat Toffoli as a healthy scratch at the end of October. As the Kings are currently flirting with being the cellar dweller of the Western Conference, perhaps they become a team that is willing to create an early-season shake-up. They are giving up a lot of goals, and scoring has not been their issue so far this season, so parting with a forward like Toffoli would be their best bet. As far as what he can bring to the Sabres, the hope there would be goal scoring. Toffoli scored 31 goals in the 2015-2016 season, and was a twenty-goal scorer two other times. He is coming off of a down year in only netting 13 goals, though he has four in 16 games so far to start this season. When looking into whether his career year was an outlier, or if he can recreate it, it can be pointed to that his expected goals and his Corsi-for numbers are strong indicators in favor of a rebound to top form. In other words, Toffoli is getting the chances, and perhaps a switch up of teammates and a change of scenery can bring that out of him. It should be noted that, in order to add Toffoli, the Sabres would have to make salary cap room for his 4.6 million dollar cap hit. This would likely mean salary, in the form of a current player, being traded back to Los Angeles. While this is certainly doable for the Kings. as they have over five million in cap space currently, they would have to be willing to accept the quality of player and contract coming back in return. While, in looking around the league, Toffoli seems the most likely target, there are a few other avenues that Botterill could explore if this one doesn’t pan out. Winnipeg has long been attached to potentially acquiring an NHL defenseman, and the Sabres certainly have an overload of them. Some of the rumoured bargaining chips they are holding are Nikolaj Ehlers, Jack Roslovic, and Mathieu Perreault. Ehlers is a big, fancy name to be throwing out there, and if he ever becomes available the Sabres should definitely jump on that. He brings speed, good production, and strong sustainability numbers to the table. However, it’s unlikely the Jets would be willing to part with such a key forward mid-season, especially given that he is locked in long-term. Roslovic is very interesting in that is a former first-rounder who feels like he isn’t quite getting the opportunity he deserves in Winnipeg. His production has suffered due to his limited role, but he has strong defensive metrics. Perhaps if given an opportunity in the Sabres top six he could show a bit more offensively. Perreault would be considered by some to be a “salary dump”, but not by me. At age 31, he has two years at slightly over four million per year as a cap hit and a modified no-trade clause. Last season, he recorded 15 goals and 15 assists for 30 points, while playing the majority of the time on the 3rd and 4th line. Not only is his production strong in limited minutes, but he also has really strong corsi numbers and good expected-goal totals. He even has been very good on the power-play, as his advanced metrics will tell you. It seems like the only thing he is missing, is opportunity. Maybe that opportunity could be with his former teammate in Washington, Marcus Johansson. Perreault is certainly poised to help up and down the lineup, and could prove to be a very cheap and valuable get. Here’s a quick rundown of the rest of the potential targets: Ondrej Kase was rumoured to be part of the nixed Justin Faulk deal to go to Carolina, so he could and should be a guy Buffalo is interested in. Anaheim has had a pretty good start to their season, though, and after acquiring Erik Gudbranson for cheap I doubt they’d go for a major shake-up. If Anaheim balks on Kase, former team USA hero Troy Terry is another interesting name on the wing. He has struggled to get going in his NHL career to-date. A player who seems to not quite fit into a role with his club is Minnesota Wild center/winger Joel Eriksson Ek. He hasn’t quite yet taken that next step in being a top-six forward, but he has some postive metrics to indicate maybe he’ll get there. The Wild certainly don’t need a defenseman, however, so I’m not sure the fit is there as a trade partner. Nashville, somewhat surprisingly, has struggled defensively this season. In looking at their forward group, they also have two miscast forwards as well. This reeks as a recipe for a dark-horse trade partner for the Sabres. Craig Smith has been stuck in a third-line role with the team. As an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, perhaps it is time for Smith and the Predators to part ways sooner than later. Smith’s truly a complete player, and would be a major impact player if acquired. The other seemingly miscast Predators forward, Kyle Turris, I would stay far away from. Although he’s had success in the past, Turris has five years remaining at six million per year at age 30. He’s been relegated to the 4th line, and I don’t see any indicators that he will turn it around. Last but not least is a forward who always seems to make most of his limited opportunity. Brandon Pirri of the Vegas Golden Knights continues to outproduce his competition, yet get overlooked at his job long-term. He brings a heck of a shot and a well-rounded game to the table, and if the Sabres can add him for little in return it would be very well to do so. View the full article
  12. Photo by JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP via Getty Images Poor defensive play and an absence of depth scoring leads to consecutive losses for Buffalo For the second consecutive game in Stockholm, the Buffalo Sabres simply could not keep up with the high-octane Tampa Bay Lightning, dropping the second game of the NHL Global Series by a score of 5-3. The blue-and-gold have now dropped six of their last seven contests after starting the season 8-1-1. Recently, several of the same issues that haunted them last season have reemerged. Plus-1: Starting Hot During the two-game series against the Lightning in Sweden, not a lot went right for the Sabres. The talent gap was evident in both contests, but Buffalo did do a nice job coming out of the gate in both games to try and set the pace. The Sabres did score the opening tally of the game off the stick of Sam Reinhart, and out-shot Tampa Bay 17-12 in the first period. Obviously, that effort ultimately ended up being futile, but still, against one of the best teams in the NHL, starting strong and setting the tone early is important so, credit where it’s due. Minus-1: Sloppy Defensive Play As was the case in yesterday’s game, the Sabres defense did a terrible job in front of the net, allowing multiple opportunities in high-danger areas. The Lightning had an extremely easy time chipping away at rebounds (often multiple) in front of Carter Hutton. While the re-vamped Buffalo defense has shown improvement from a puck-moving standpoint this season, they need to do a better job in deep. Allowing multiple rebound opportunities while your goalie is sprawled out is not a recipe for success. Minus-2: Power-Play Continues to Struggle Since their hot start to the 2019-20 season, the Sabres’ lack of success on the power-play (and penalty kill, for that matter) has been a big part of the reason for their recent struggles. While they still hold one of the best conversion-rates in the NHL at 25-percent, they’ve converted on only two of their last 13 opportunities during the current five-game losing streak. Prior to the season, fans mostly agreed that special teams would play a critical role if the team was going to make strides in Ralph Kureger’s first season behind the bench. So far, the Sabres have gone as far as the previously potent power-play unit has taken them. If they want to get back on track, they need to regain their success in that area. Minus-3: Lack of Depth Scoring Similar to last season, the Sabres’ current slump has been in large part due to a lack of offensive production. Over the past six games, the only Buffalo forwards to score a goal have been the “big four” of Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart, Victor Olofsson, and Jeff Skinner. Kureger did try to address that issue today by shaking up his forward combinations, but it did not have an immediate effect. We’ll see how he continues to try and resolve that problem (at least he recognizes it, which is more than can be said for Phil Housley), but Buffalo simply cannot stay afloat in the standings without consistent depth scoring. Final Thoughts Fan enthusiasm was high after the team collected 17 of a possible 20 points to start the year. Over the past couple weeks however, the regression has come hard and fast. There is little question that this season’s squad is markedly better than what we saw a year ago. That being said, the same general issues remain, albeit to a milder extent. How the team rebounds from their current slump will be key. If they curl into a ball like they did in 2018-19, we could be in for a long season. Hopefully that isn’t the case. View the full article
  13. Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images Sabres and Lightning wrap up their Global Series matchup in Sweden this afternoon Game 17 Buffalo Sabres (9-5-2) vs. Tampa Bay Lightning (7-5-2) Puck Drop: 1:00 PM EST | Ericsson Globe | Stockholm, Sweden TV: NBCSN, SN1 Radio: WGR 550 SB Nation Lightning Blog: Raw Charge View the full article
  14. Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images Sabres and Lightning play game two in Sweden this afternoon The Buffalo Sabres and Tampa Bay Lightning complete their Global Series matchup in Sweden this afternoon. View the full article
  15. Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images Sabres look to bounce back after disappointing loss in Sweden Game 17 Buffalo Sabres (9-5-2) vs. Tampa Bay Lightning (7-5-2) Puck Drop: 2:00 PM EST | Ericsson Globe | Stockholm, Sweden TV: NBCS, SN1 Radio: WGR 550 SB Nation Lightning Blog: Raw Charge Know Your Opponent Tampa Bay Lightning Record: (7-5-2) | 14 PTS Last 10: 5-4-1 Division Ranking: 6th in Atlantic Division Conference Ranking: 11th in Eastern Conference PP: 6th (23.1%) PK: 27th (74.0%) What to Watch 1. They don’t ask how Simply put, the Buffalo Sabres need to score more goals. The team has a total of three goals in November, and while they’ve only played three games, a 1.0 goals per game average should be somewhere close to what a few of the players are scoring, rather than the team as a whole. The last time the Sabres scored more than two goals was October 22. They’ve allowed 18 goals in that time. You can’t win games without putting the puck in the net. Period. 2. Killing in the name of... The power play has been great for Buffalo - even with their scoring woes overall, the team is converting on a pace of 25.9 percent, tied for third in the league. The penalty kill? Not so much. The Sabres are in the bottom-third, killing only 80 percent of its disadvantages. That seems like a solid number, but given that the team is struggling to score, they are in dire need of an improved kill. Yesterday afternoon’s PP tally for Tampa was the difference between one point and no points in the standings. 3. Help from my friends It’s easy to look at a 3.00 goals against average over the last six games and throw some shade at the goaltending, but there is little question that Linus Ullmark and Carter Hutton have answered the call when they have needed to, making some spectacular saves in that time. Ullmark took the loss yesterday, but easily could have been the top star, given how well he played to try to keep his team in the game. The Sabres’ defense, and overall defensive zone coverage, needs to tighten up. Good teams will capitalize on their opponents mistakes. Great teams will hang four goals in a period on a team, and that can’t be blamed entirely on the goalie. Buffalo has to approach their zone in a more comprehensive way, making smart plays in transition, and providing support for puck carriers to mitigate panic and turnovers. Projected Lineup Buffalo Sabres Forwards Victor Olofsson - Jack Eichel - Sam Reinhart Jeff Skinner - Marcus Johansson - Evan Rodrigues Conor Sheary - Casey Mittelstadt - Jimmy Vesey Zemgus Girgensons - Johan Larsson - Kyle Okposo Defense Rasmus Dahlin - Brandon Montour Jake McCabe - Rasmus Ristolainen Henri Jokiharju - Colin Miller Lawrence Pilut - John Gilmour Starting Goaltender: Carter Hutton Tampa Bay Lightning Forwards Alexander Volkov - Steven Stamkos - Nikita Kucherov Ondrej Palat - Brayden Point - Tyler Johnson Alex Killorn - Anthony Cirelli - Mathieu Joseph Yanni Gourde - Cedric Paquette - Luke Witkowski Defense Ryan McDonagh - Erik Cernak Mikhail Sergachev - Kevin Shattenkirk Jan Rutta - Luke Schenn Starting Goaltender: Curtis McElhiney View the full article
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