Game Preview: 1/16/20 at Dallas


Game Notes NHL Stats Press Clips

Tuesday, January 14
Vegas 2 at Buffalo 4
Goals: Okposo, Reinhart, Eichel, Lazar
Goalie: Ullmark (24 saves/26 shots)
PP: 2/3; PK: 2/3; Shots: Buffalo 26 – Vegas 26

CURRENT INJURIES – (Man Games Lost: 217)
Player (injury, first game missed) – total games missed
Matt Hunwick (neck, Oct. 3; injured reserve) – 47 games
Vladimir Sobotka (knee, Nov. 9; injured reserve) – 31 games
Tage Thompson (upper body, Nov. 19; injured reserve) – 27 games
Jeff Skinner (upper body, Dec. 29; injured reserve) – 8 games
Victor Olofsson (lower body, Jan. 4; injured reserve) – 5 games


Saturday, Jan. 18: Buffalo at Nashville, 8 p.m.
Tuesday, Jan. 28: Ottawa at Buffalo, 7 p.m.
Thursday, Jan. 30: Montreal at Buffalo, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 1: Columbus at Buffalo, 1 p.m.
Tuesday, Feb. 4: Colorado at Buffalo, 7 p.m.


  • This is the second of two meetings between the Sabres and Stars this season.
  • Last meeting: Buffalo defeated Dallas 4-0 in Buffalo on Oct. 14, 2019
  • The Sabres are 2-8-0 in their last 10 games vs. the Stars; 2-8-0 on the road.
  • This is the 126th game all-time between Buffalo and Dallas; Buffalo has a 57-51-17 series record.
  • The Sabres are 23-34-6 on the road against the Stars all-time.


  • The Sabres are 13-3-5 all-time on January 16.
  • January 16, 1970: George “Punch” Imlach is named general manager and coach of the Sabres.
  • January 16, 2017: Jake McCabe earns his first career game-winning goal by scoring the first power-play goal of his career in a 4-1 win at home against the Dallas Stars.


  • The Sabres are seeking their first win in Dallas since Jan. 15, 2009. With a win tonight, Buffalo would have multiple wins in a season against the Stars for the first time since they won five straight matchups to sweep the 1984-85 and 1985-86 season series.
  • The Sabres have gone 6-for-14 (42.9%) on the power play in their last five games, converting at the third-best rate in the league during that stretch entering play Wednesday.
  • With a point tonight, Jack Eichel would join David Pastrnak as the only other NHL player to record two separate point streaks of at least nine games this season.
  • Sam Reinhart tied his career high with three points (1+2) in the Sabres’ last game on Tuesday vs. Vegas. The team is now 8-2-1 this season (.773) and 39-7-8 (.796) in his career when he records at least two points.
  • Carter Hutton, who shut out the Stars in the first meeting between these teams this season, is 4-3-2 against Dallas in his career with a .923 save percentage and a 2.27 goals-against average.
  • Linus Ullmark has yet to register a win against Dallas through three career meetings but has a .939 save percentage and a 1.72 goals-against average in those games.


  • Jack Eichel has recorded points in each of Buffalo’s last eight games (4+6), tying Mitchell Marner for the longest active streak in the NHL. His current stretch trails only his run of 18 consecutive games played with a point (Nov. 16 to Dec. 21) for his longest streak this season.
  • Sam Reinhart has totaled 19 points (7+12) in the Sabres’ last 19 contests.
  • Rasmus Dahlin has recorded five assists in his last five games. His .67 points per game so far this season represent the best scoring rate by a Sabres defenseman since Brian Campbell (.68) in 2007-08.
  • Rasmus Ristolainen enters tonight’s game on a three-game point streak (1+2).
  • Linus Ullmark is 4-1-0 since the beginning of January with a .923 save percentage and a 2.20 goals-against average.


  • Entering play Wednesday, Jack Eichel’s 28 goals this season tied for third-most among all NHL players and his 61 points tied for seventh in the league.
  • Eichel has been selected to represent the Sabres at NHL All-Star Weekend on Jan. 24 and 25 in St. Louis. With his third consecutive All-Star nod, Eichel becomes the seventh player in franchise history to represent the team in at least three NHL All-Star Games, joining Rick Martin (7), Gilbert Perreault (6), Dominik Hasek (5), Mike Ramsey (4), Phil Housley (3) and Alexander Mogilny (3).
  • With his 60th point of the season on Jan. 14 vs. Vegas, Eichel became the first Sabre to reach 60 points in 46 or fewer games since 1992-93 (Pat LaFontaine and Alexander Mogilny).
  • He joins Rick Martin as the only other player in franchise history to record at least 20 goals and 50 points in each of his first five NHL seasons.
  • Eichel hasn’t been held without a point in three consecutive appearances since early November. In his 30 games played since then, he has totaled 44 points (21+23), including a stretch of 18 straight games (Nov. 16 to Dec. 21) that tied Gilbert Perreault (Oct. 24 to Dec. 4, 1971) for the most consecutive games played with a point in franchise history.
  • The streak was the NHL’s fifth-longest personal point streak in the last decade, trailing only Taylor Hall (26 in 2017-18), Patrick Kane (26 in 2015-16), Sidney Crosby (25 in 2010-11) and Patrick Kane (20 in 2018-19).


  • With 28 goals in 46 games so far this season, Jack Eichel has already tied his previous best total set in the 2018-19 season (77 GP).
  • Eichel’s output through 47 team games currently has him on pace to finish the season with 49 goals and 107 points, which would be the highest goal and point totals by a Sabre since Pat LaFontaine (53+95) and Alexander Mogilny (76+51) in 1992-93.
  • LaFontaine (83 in 1992-93) and Mogilny (78 in 1992-93) are the only Sabres ever to have recorded more even-strength points in a season than the 72 Eichel is currently on pace for.
  • Sam Reinhart’s 16 goals in 47 games put him on pace for a career-high goal total (28).


  • Jack Eichel has recorded 17 multi-point games this season, ranking as 8th-most in the NHL before Wednesday’s games. The Sabres are 12-3-2 (.765) in those games.
  • Entering play Wednesday, his six multi-goal games tied for third-most in the league and his nine multi-assist games tied for seventh-most.
  • Eichel has already recorded at least three points seven times this season, topping his previous career-high total (6) set in the 2016-17 season. Only Connor McDavid (11), Leon Draisaitl (9), Artemi Panarin (8) and David Pastrnak (8) had more games with at least three points this season entering play Wednesday.
  • Eichel’s three games with at least four points this season tied for third-most in the league entering play Wednesday. Since he entered the league in 2015-16, only nine players had totaled at least four points more times than Eichel’s eight: Nikita Kucherov (15), Patrick Kane (12), Connor McDavid (11), Artemi Panarin (10), Johnny Gaudreau (9), Nathan MacKinnon (9), Brad Marchand (9), Alex Ovechkin (9) and Steven Stamkos (9).

SABRES AMONG LEAGUE-LEADERS (Sabres’ league rankings before 1/15 games)

  • Eichel: 21 EVG (2nd), 28 G (T-3rd), 6 GWG (T-3rd), 41 EVP (T-5th), 61 PTS (T-7th)
  • Hutton: 2 SO (T-7th)
  • Olofsson: 9 PPG (T-6th)

Hits: Ristolainen (140), Girgensons (74), McCabe (64)
Blocked Shots: McCabe (61), Ristolainen (54), Jokiharju (41)
Shots: Eichel (160), Skinner (128), Olofsson (99)

1-10: 8-1-1 (17), 38/24, 12/39, 23/30
11-20: 2-6-2 (6), 21/35, 2/26, 21/29
21-30: 3-4-3 (8), 34/34, 4/33, 23/32
31-40: 4-5-1 (9), 24/32, 4/23, 23/30
41-50: 4-3-0 (8), 23/24, 6/20, 14/18

OVERTIME RESULTS (4-6; 124-134 all-time)
Oct. 7 at CBJ: L, 4-3 (GWG-Texier, 2:08)
Oct. 9 vs. MTL: W, 5-4 (GWG-Johansson, 1:30)
Oct. 22 vs. SJS: W, 4-3 (GWG-Eichel, 3:13)
Nov. 14 vs. CAR: L, 5-4 (GWG-Hamilton, 2:28)
Nov. 27 vs. CGY: L, 3-2 (GWG-Lindholm, 1:17)
Nov. 30 at TOR: L, 2-1 (GWG-Tavares, 1:45)
Dec. 7 at VAN: L, 6-5 (GWG-Miller, 3:21)
Dec. 8 at EDM: W, 3-2 (GWG-Miller, 1:13)
Dec. 14 at NYI: L, 3-2 (GWG-Beauvillier, 3:04)
Jan. 2 vs. EDM: W, 3-2 (GWG-Eichel, 1:09)

SHOOTOUT RESULTS (1-1; 76-70 all-time)
Oct. 11 vs. FLA: W, 3-2 (GDG-Eichel)
Oct. 28 vs. ARI: L, 3-2 (GDG-Schmaltz)

MILESTONES APPROACHING (Player … Needs … Milestone)
Games Played
Linus Ullmark … 7 games … 100 career games played
Kyle Okposo … 8 goals … 200 career goals
Jack Eichel … 9 assists … 200 career assists
Kyle Okposo … 3 points … 500 career points
Zach Bogosian … 6 points … 200 career points
Johan Larsson … 9 points … 100 career points 

Conor Sheary … 300th NHL game … Jan. 11 vs. VAN

Ralph Krueger Interview – Howard & Jeremy (1/15/20)

January 15, 2020


Ralph Krueger
Howard & Jeremy (8 a.m.) (15:21)

Howard Simon: Sabres head coach Ralph Krueger is standing by to talk a little bit more about last night’s win over the Vegas Knights. Ralph, it’s Howard and Jeremy. Good morning, how are you, sir?

Ralph Krueger: Good morning, Buffalo. Good morning, Howard and Jeremy. I’m fine. Always better after a good result.

HS: Well us, too. Hard-hitting question to start things off: Do you have a nickname?

RK: I do not, no. My wife actually finds it nice that people just say, “Coach.” That’s who I am here in Buffalo. I do not have a nickname, no.

HS: For future reference, if the team’s not playing well and the fans are booing, you can just think they’re saying “Kreugs,” so just use that if it makes you feel any better.

RK: When I was a player, people would say “Kreugs.” It’s definitely a good blend and the fans have been fantastic here in rough games, like the finish against Vancouver, or yesterday, where we had a bit of a dip in the second period, the crowd has been unbelievable. I have a feeling they really feel what’s happening in our room and in our process, and it’s been a lot of fun so far.

HS: Last night — we’ve brought up, specifically with you before, certain plays by Eichel and the “wow factor.” I know how I reacted watching the game at home, and you could hear the fans react in the building. As a coach, and you’re watching on the bench, he makes that dash up ice and scores; what are you thinking? What’s your reaction over there?

RK: Well I used the word last night in the media conference, “genius.” It is what Jack has in him and it’s so exciting to be coaching that and be a part of it. But what people don’t see is the hard work that he puts in away from those events. He’s going 100 percent all the time, whether it’s in the gym, or his nutrition, or off the ice or working with his teammates. That’s why those things happen. It’s not luck, or by chance; Jack Eichel works for everything that he gets. When he does show those moments, it’s a beautiful thing to be a part of as a coach. Last night, we needed brilliance. Vegas is one of the top teams in the league and to see Jack take the game under his control and to decide it with an event like that is why he is so special.

Jeremy White: Ralph, we’ve seen really good play out of Jack Eichel before. This is definitely a next level. Yesterday, Jason Botterill, the GM, gave you credit as one of the reasons he has kind of taken a step forward. Would you also — not saying would you take credit yourself, but — what is it, do you think, maybe that you’ve done to help him reach that next level?

RK: Well I think if you look at Jack and I, we’ve come together — both of us — at a good time in our careers. I’ve come to Buffalo in a time when I felt that I had the experience to deal with the situation and I could put all of my life lessons into play, and I’m enjoying that. And Jack, also, has been coached by many different people through his life, whether it’s his family or his hockey coaches. Everyone’s been chipping in and everybody can take credit or responsibility for what’s happening. But, above all, Jack has the most responsibility in that process. I’ve stepped into the club at a good time, where we’re still in a development `phase; we’re still in a place of growing and learning. And Jack is the same. We aren’t near our potential yet, which is something that should excite us all.

HS: If you give a — yeah, I guess it’s kind of a “State of the Sabres” — but you’ve won four of six after the stretch of losses that ended with the 4-1 lead against Tampa. And there are some rough moments in the stretch, too — your St. Louis game, whatever. But as you look at your team right now, you’re trying to hang in there in the wild card race as you get ready to go into this extended break. How, generally, do you feel your team is playing right now coming off that losing streak?

RK: Well we’ve really managed the changes in lineup quite well, which is directly connected, of course, to injuries. We’ve continued to show that we have depth. We’re pleased with the effort. We’re pleased with what the players are all about right now, and that’s buying into a concept that we need to get more consistent with. That’s all that’s happening right now, is we’re slipping out of being the team we want to be, and then we get back into being the team we want to be. It’s normal. The habits we are trying to develop here are hard to consistently execute, and they take a lot of dedication and commitment to making them something that we can bring on a nightly basis. If you look at the top clubs in the league — if you look at Washington, if you look at Boston, or now Tampa Bay — they’re doing things on a very consistent level day in and day out and they didn’t just start doing those overnight either; they had to work on those. Some players for years and years, and then the team as a group. So that’s where we’re at right now, guys. Jeremy and Howard, I would say we’re continuing to develop, we’re continuing to grow and we’re just looking for that consistency. But I believe our fan base can feel the game we want to play: We want to play on our toes, we want to be aggressive, we want to play attractive hockey here in Buffalo. But we want to do it day in and day out. We’re not doing it yet; we understand that. But everybody needs to know we’re working hard to get that consistency. It’s going to come over time because of the attitude we have in the room right now.

HS: So following up what you just said, in the last hour we were talking to Paul [Hamilton] about, “their home record is very good.” Your struggles have come on the road. In light of what you were just talking about, that consistency in your game, do you tend to see those drop-offs, more likely, on road games than home games for any reason?

RK: You know what, guys, I don’t feel the same way as the statistics are showing. I don’t feel a change in preparation or focus or intensity. I think what happens on the road is the opposition raise their game. We need to be able to deal with all the distractions that happen when you’re not in your home building and you don’t get that push. But as far as the general prep is concerned, we don’t make major adjustments in our game on the road; we want to be consistent in whatever building we’re playing against. Whoever we’re playing, we want our game to be pushed down their throats. I just think that everybody needs to get more confidence on the road. We probably have more confidence in our home building, which is natural. That would be, for me, the final piece. As coaches, we don’t feel a big drop-off. I thought our first period in Detroit the other day was one of our better ones of the season, for example. We’ve had some excellent games on the road. Even against the top teams, like Boston and Tampa, we’ve showed up, we’ve started well. We just couldn’t be consistent through the game with that. So it’s, again, finishing those games on the road when we get the good feeling and believing in ourselves in other buildings as much as we do in the KeyBank Center.

HS: Your power play was key last night; had a couple goals. It’s been much better the last five games: six power play goals in that stretch. What, specifically, are you seeing that has led to the improvement in that?

RK: More movement. It’s less predictability. And, quite simply, the hunger to get shots to the net is increased. Rasmus Ristolainen going net-front creates a new stress on the net presence and pressure on the opposition, and it’s freed up Jack and our playmaking ability quite a bit. So it’s a combination of factors. The guys have been working hard at it. I just finished using the word “confidence” on the road and power play is all about that. You get the mojo — you get that feeling — and it starts to click, which it has been lately. Now we need to keep that going. We had this kind of a stretch early in the season. We dropped off. It’s our offensive motor. It’ll decide how we do offensively. It’ll decide how effective we are in our 5-on-5 game because some of our key offensive players can get their confidence there. You’re right on; it’s been hot of late and we need to keep it there.

HS: I want to ask you about your goalies in a second but — two injury updates, because I just want to see if there’s anything new on either guy or a timeframe. What about Jeff Skinner? Let’s go there first.

RK: I can put them in a package, guys. You know, Jeff Skinner and Victor Olofsson. To see them in suits after the games instead of hockey equipment is tough, but the guys have been working hard to fill those spots. I think that the same thing is going off-ice right now. Our rehab team is so positive and optimistic that we’ve got them on track, which means in the weeks following the break coming up here we’re expecting their return. But I really cannot tell you right now on either of those injuries will it be right after the break, will it be a few weeks after the break? We just have to let these processes, whether it’s upper or lower body on these guys, run their course. We’re optimistic we’re going to have them back as we fight in this difficult division and this difficult race that we’re in. We like where they’re at right now; that’s all I can tell you. Both of them are developing in the right way on the right timelines in their respective injuries.

HS: Wasn’t Skinner’s timeline shorter than Olofsson’s, Ralph?

RK: If you’re going to go out and bet, guys, then I would probably bet on that. [Laughs]

HS: [Laughs] Alright, I’ll go find a few bucks.

HS: The other thing I wanted to ask you about were your goalies. You were talking about confidence of the team a moment ago and, obviously, Carter Hutton must be dealing with a confidence issue right now. He’s had some struggles — I know it isn’t all him — but he’s gone through a long stretch without winning a game. What can you do, what do you do about Carter Hutton right now, because it’s not been good when he’s been starting the last, what, 10, 11 games?

RK: We just continue to work hard with him. Those results are not only the responsibility of Carter; they’re the responsibility of us as a group. Having played — if you just look at the last game against Vancouver, we left our game. He gave us a chance, actually, in the first two periods to stay in that one. He just needs to continue to work the way he is. Mike Bales is doing an outstanding job with our goalies. There’s nothing else to say; it’s hard work, it’s belief in your fundamentals. Keep focusing on those and when the next ball comes his way, the team also understanding the situation he’s in and helping him to get his confidence back and his belief. It’ll come. He contributes to this group in an amazing way every day, every practice. There’s nobody cheering louder for Linus [Ullmark] when Linus is in the net and we need to do the same for Carter to get back his feeling that he had earlier in the season. We know it’s in him. The practices and the off-ice work is important to get you back on track.

HS: And, finally then, with Linus, you’ve had to lean heavily on him in the last month or so. I think he’s started all but two of the games. Do you worry at all about workload, fatigue? What can you track? What do you look at to make sure that Linus is holding up okay with the heaviest workload of his professional career at this point?

RK: I think you can look at Linus and you can look at our top-minute guys and say the same thing: What are we doing between games, how are we working to maintain our energy? That’s, again, where our off-ice staff is doing such a good job, whether it’s in the gym or in our rehab rooms and the physio, all of that — the nutrition that we have. We are all about quality and not quantity as far as practice and ice is concerned. So Linus is in that category of high-minutes guys and thus far it’s all of that other work that’s being done that’s helping them to stay on track and to be able to find the energy that the NHL asks for in this grueling pace that we’re on. It’s what Linus has become; he’s taken another level this year. The top goalies in the league do play the minutes he does. The top goalies are able to play the games he does. He’s on course and on path to be one of the top goalies in the league if not there already. Again, it’s what he did in the summer. It’s what he’s doing in his mind. All of these things come together and we feel confident that he can handle the load. And again, Mike Bales, at the lead of that responsibility, has been doing an excellent job with Linus.

HS: What have you got planned for the dads on this trip, Ralph? Anything special as a group?

RK: You know, I hate to be a party pooper, but I as a head coach just keep them focused on the difficult tasks we have in Dallas and Nashville. I really think the fathers are an important part of this process and I look forward to meeting them all. We’re going to have some meals together, they’re going to be a part of our processes, they’re going to see how we get guys ready for the games in Dallas and Nashville. I’m sure the guys are going to get some energy and be excited to have them all there. Probably the most important, with the mothers together, the most important two people in their lives to get them where they are here today, so we’re proud to have them aboard. We’re proud to have them on the trip. But again, I’m going to need to make sure that we understand — all of us together — how focused we need to be for the game. So it’s a combination of having fun but also letting them see the hard work that the guys need to do to be successful and to stay competitive in the National Hockey League.

HS: Well good luck in Dallas and Nashville, Ralph, and as always, thanks for giving us your time.

RK: Thank you and thank you, Buffalo, for the support, speaking for the team. We continue to fight on together here to have everyone proud of the Sabres.

Post-Game Report: 1/14 vs. Vegas

Final Score

1st 2nd 3rd OT SO Final SOG
Golden Knights
0 1 1 2 25
0 2 2 4 26

Game Summary

Event Summary


Top Notes

  • The Sabres improved to 7-3-3 against the Pacific Division this season, including a 4-1-2 record against the division at KeyBank Center.
  • Buffalo has now gone 6-for-14 (42.9%) on the power play in the team’s last five games.
  • With his 15th win of the season, Linus Ullmark tied his career high set in 37 appearances last season. Ullmark is 4-1-0 since the beginning of January with a .923 save percentage and a 2.20 goals-against average.
  • Sam Reinhart tied his career high with three points (1+2) in his 11th multi-point game of the season. It was his 10th career three-point game and his first since he scored a hat trick on Feb. 23, 2019 vs. Washington.

    • Reinhart has now produced above a point-per-game pace at home this season (11+13).
  • Jack Eichel recorded two points (1+1) to extend his point streak to eight games (4+6).
    • He has joined John Carlson, Leon Draisaitl, Nathan MacKinnon, Mitchell Marner and David Pastrnak as the sixth player to record two streaks of at least eight games this season.
  • With his first point of the night, Eichel became the first Sabres player to reach the 60-point mark in 46 games or fewer since 1992-93, when Alexander Mogilny (33 GP) and Pat LaFontaine (34 GP) both did so.
  • Eichel’s second point was his 28th goal of the season. Through 46 games played, he has now tied his career-high goal total set last season in 77 games.
  • With his power-play goal, Kyle Okposo now has four points (1+3) in his last three games against Vegas.
  • Conor Sheary’s assist tonight gives him seven points (4+3) in his last seven games at KeyBank Center.


Tonight’s Goaltenders

Tonight’s Stats
Team Goaltender Decision GA SA
Golden Knights
Fleury L 3 25
Sabres Ullmark W 2 26
Updated Season Stats
Team Goaltender Record SV% GAA
Golden Knights Fleury 18-11-3 .906 2.85
Sabres Ullmark 15-12-3 .911 2.78


Post-Game Audio

Sabres head coach Ralph Krueger

Sabres forward Sam Reinhart

Sabres forward Kyle Okposo

Sabres forward Jack Eichel

Golden Knights head coach Gerard Gallant

Golden Knights forward Max Pacioretty

Golden Knights forward Mark Stone

Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury

Jason Botterill Interview – Schopp & Bulldog (1/14/20)

January 14, 2020


Jason Botterill

Schopp & Bulldog (5:30 p.m.) (16:56)


Mike Schopp: Jason Botterill with us now. Hi, Jason.

Jason Botterill: Hey, how’re you guys doing?

MS: This has been, like, we’ve been missing each other a couple times lately, but you made it.

JB: Yeah, I think I was supposed to be on and we were in the middle of the [Marco] Scandella and [Michael] Frolik trade at that time, so I do appreciate your understanding from that. Happy New Year to you guys.

MS: Happy New Year.


MS: That was interesting. So Chris Bandura, from the front office, called me early that day and used the term ‘league call’ and in retrospect that night I thought, ‘Maybe that should’ve been, should’ve been a term that I would associate with a trade.’ Now there was no news of a trade at noon that day, but I wonder if that was a tell.

JB: And that one took a little bit longer just because Frolik did have the no-trade clause and it was — there was a few different things in it. Because, obviously, Montreal had a trade going with Ottawa, then the trade with us. We then had the trade with Calgary going and it was one of those things where you knew everything was correlated from that. So it sometimes took a little bit to organize it all.


MS: So, you had to wait for Montreal to make its other move?

JB: Yeah, it’s one of those things where you knew everything was contingent on the other one working out, and obviously it was contingent on Frolik waiving his no-trade too. It wasn’t a situation until Calgary went to talk to Michael after their morning skate. So, it was one of those things, too, where Calgary was having a game, we were having a game that day. We had a few things to get through and stuff, but glad it worked all out for our group here.


Chris Parker: Very understandable. I think maybe a lot of our audience was kind of hoping you wouldn’t show up today because that would mean something was happening. I mean, I hope you take that in the spirit it’s intended, you know? With that in mind, how do you feel about where you team is right now? Like, what do you think can still be accomplished this year?

JB: Well, I think it’s a situation where we’ve, you know, coming out of the break at Christmas time, I thought we played very well against Boston and Tampa Bay. To get zero points out of those three games was disheartening, for sure. I liked how our group responded against Edmonton and Florida there. Going into St. Louis, that’s a level that we still have to get to: that upper echelon in the National Hockey League. The way I look at the league right now, I think there’s, you may debate it a little bit, but I think there’s seven or eight really, very top teams and then everyone else can beat anybody on any given night. And that’s what we’re trying to accomplish here right now. I thought it was important that we got the victory in Detroit after a game against Vancouver where, that’s a game that we have to find a way to win. 3-3 in our own building, we have to find a way to at least come away with points in that situation there. We’ve got three games here before the break, have our fathers trip starting tomorrow. I think, hopefully just in a little more added incentive for some of our players and then we’ll see where we go from there.


MS: In that calculation you revealed about seven or eight top teams, is there room for you — as you break that down — to make the playoffs? I mean you’re seven points out, I think, at the moment. We talked earlier about last night’s Philadelphia-Boston game and brought up [Brad] Marchand whiffing on that shootout attempt and Bulldog’s like, ‘Well, my first thought was that’s two more points for the Flyers.’ I’m like, ‘Good thing you’re here, because I was not really thinking of it that way.’ Like I wondered, if you’re watching that game thinking the same way.

JB: Trust me, there’s going to be a ton of three-point games that teams are going to go continue to work on, some teams are going to get hot, and you’ve seen it throughout the league and stuff from that standpoint. What our focus has to be is our own internal — how we play, how we’re doing against our own teams here. And, you know, I know Ralph [Krueger] has mentioned a lot about winning two out of three games, trying to minimize things. You can’t always look at the big picture. I think our group has excelled when it’s tried to stay in the small picture there. Our focus here now is on the next few games here, see where it goes from the break and then materialize from there. But if you’re scoreboard watching in January, look, teams around you are going to win, it’s just that, especially when they’re playing against each other all the time and there’s going to be a lot of three-point games with how close the league is.


MS: I think, if I may, this may sound like you think your team is at a level where someone else might think that more dramatic changes are necessary to see this team actually, you know, really compete. You’re on an 85-, 86-point pace. Would that be wrong? Do you see this as a team that’s close to really rising?

JB: Well we haven’t had the production yet. We haven’t had the results yet, so we still have to improve. 100 percent. There’s a situation where we’re not an elite team by any means and should we be in a conversation for playoffs? Yeah, I think we should, certainly should be in that conversation, but, hey, we can continue to talk about it, but we have to go out there and actually have the results. It’s one thing to play well against the Bostons and Tampa Bays, but when we have a 4-1 lead at home, we have to find a way to finish off that game. It’s good that we’re playing well against those teams, but now finding better results is certainly what we have to do.


CP: When you face a situation like that — the 4-1 lead against Tampa’s a great example — how do you feel like your coach is handling the team? Is that tough talk time? How do you think he proceeds in those situations?

JB: I think one of Ralph’s best things was the day afterwards from that standpoint. Look, it was a disheartening loss. It was a situation where we talked about it, Tampa Bay, you know, we knew coming into the season this year, they were going to be a top team to go 0-3 against them and then going into that game, we had certainly circled that game as an important challenge for our group. I liked how we came out, got the lead from that standpoint, got some secondary scoring, which I think was key in that game. Then to let it slip, to go from sort of a festive environment in the second period to, hey, losing the game at home, it was difficult. And then what I liked was Ralph did with our group to try to refocus them to get back on taking it small. The playoffs, hey we’ll worry about that another time, but what we have to work on right now is getting back in the swing of things. Then we start the next game against Edmonton, it’s not a great start, it’s down 2-0. Like, okay, everything could unravel here at this point, but our group found a way to get that win in that game and then went and had a strong game against Florida.


CP: So that’s New Year’s Eve, the Tampa game, right?

JB: Yep.

CP: New Year’s Day is the day that I — I don’t attend these practices or the news conferences, but the video that the team posted, (Ralph Krueger) just spoke for like 15 minutes and I watched every minute of it. And, I’m not going to lie to you, I don’t often do that. I hear highlights and I read what happened, but I sat watching that and I loved it, like how he communicated that day. Can you tell us, like is that basically the same message he gave to the team that day?

JB: The biggest message is, obviously it’s a cliché of keeping it simple, but (the message is) keeping it small. That’s what we have to do in a situation like this. And if you look at the small picture, we just came away from three games where we felt we played well. But we didn’t get the results. So, at the end of the day that’s not acceptable. So you pull the positives of what you’re trying to do as a team, but then, hey, what do we have to do now to change to make sure that that outcome changes in the future here? And that’s where I think Ralph’s done a very good job with our group in speaking to the group, but then also in smaller, you know, whether it’s this line or this power-play group, just that dynamics of not always being the group mentality, of individuals. I think as Donny Granato’s got back into the mix here, been healthy and been working with us, I think our system coaches have done a good job with the development of our individual players. So as a staff they continue to grow and hopefully have a strong second half here.


MS: Jason Botterill here with us. You are talking about the playoffs a little bit here. We’ll see what happens. There’s some work to do to make it. I think fans would like to think that there is, from a development standpoint, a lot coming into the equation here that would make people reinforce the idea that the Sabres are about to become a real contender. I don’t know where that is — where that stands — Jason. I’d like to hear you talk about this. Since you’ve gotten here, important players have been traded away and, I know you have the [Tage] Thompson injury too, he was on the team last year, [Casey] Mittelstadt is down [in Rochester]. What else, especially in terms of forwards, because it seems to me that the Sabres have had this same lack of scoring depth past Jack Eichel for several years.

JB: And I think Ralph’s done a great job of getting the most out of Jack and continuing to work with Jack to expand his game. Obviously, Victor Olofsson’s had a great season so far, the injury hurts him. Knowing Victor and his dedication, he’s certainly going to come back from that. But just the continued development of Jack and Sam Reinhart and their production I think is, I think Ralph has done an excellent job there. Tage [Thompson’s injury] is a disappointment; it’s a disappointing thing for our entire organization just because of what we challenged Tage in the offseason, he went through with it; there was things for him to work on specifically in Rochester, I thought he did that. I thought he had a great start to the season in Rochester, came up and obviously got the injury. It’s just something that we have to deal with; Tage has to deal with it. The good thing is he’s going to have the opportunity to have a strong summer and be ready to go next year. With a player like Casey Mittelstadt, Casey could be up here in the National Hockey League right now surviving, but we don’t view that as a situation long term with him. We view him as a player that can certainly help and add to our offensive punch. You’ve seen that in games: the first game of the season this year against Pittsburgh, out in L.A.. He has that ability, but now has to work from a consistent standpoint. Development, you wish it would just always be a linear approach, and you’re always, every day you’re seeing improvement in players, but sometimes there’s dips. In a situation with that, we felt very comfortable placing him in Rochester with a coach in Chris Taylor that worked very closely with Casey at the National Hockey League level, had seen Casey’s best games and also some of the games where he struggled and knew exactly what he had to work on for him to get back into the system here and what Ralph needs from him moving forward here. So, there’s that. I would also say, you look at the development of Rasmus Asplund we’ve been happy about. He stepped in earlier than what we anticipated from that standpoint. And then I think just what we can continue to try to add on our back end is players with that skill, that puck-moving ability that can create more offense from our back end there. We all would love our 19- and 20-year-old defensemen in [Henri] Jokiharju and [Rasmus] Dahlin to be Norris Trophy winners this year and everything like that, but there’s going to be a development process for those guys. That’s why we also wanted bring up Lawrence Pilut. He’s accomplished in the American Hockey League that we’ve been very happy with. We wanted to see how he’d fit in with our group here right now. It’s important for us, as an organization, to continue to develop these guys. And I think, as an organization, it’s finding ways to get more offense from our back end here to help out our forwards.


MS: I’m, just thinking though, with due respect, you talked about, we talked about the three players: Mittelstadt, Thompson and Asplund, and they might have — and I’m just guessing here — 200 games in the league at this point and how many goals is it? Like 20 goals? I don’t even know how many goals it is, right? Like you’ve got guys, less so — least so Asplund, who just doesn’t have as much NHL experience — but beyond guys who’ve played in the league, is there hope for someone else in the organization to become a real scorer for you? And yes, of course, you’re right to mention Olofsson who’s absolutely done that.

JB: He’s certainly helped our group a lot there. We’re excited about where Dylan Cozens is from his development. We think he had a very good World Juniors from a standpoint of being a player to rely on for Team Canada and gaining that experience at an elite level. And them, hey, look it’s our job to find ways to get more out of our players. I still think there’s more offense to come from a player like Conor Sheary or a player like Jimmy Vesey. It’s important to pull that out of them. You look at a player like Marcus Johansson is showing glimpses of it and has been a good leader for us, but I know Marcus also wants to contribute more offensively from that standpoint. So that’s the responsibility of our players and also, as an organization, to find more players to support some of our young players.


CP: So you mentioned here at the outset some of the results haven’t been there even though the performances were good, good games. And I have no problem with that; I would agree with it. The games against Boston, specifically, I think maybe have been some of your best games and you haven’t gotten any points out of those games. So the team has to perform, you need to get results. How much urgency do you feel to do something to supplement the group here? We started with trades, I guess maybe we’ll end with trades. Do you feel some urgency to do something for the group to try to help even when [Jeff] Skinner comes back and eventually Olofsson?

JB: Yeah, look, missing Skinner and Olofsson are big from our group from an offensive standpoint. But, come on, everybody in the league has injuries that they deal with and that’s something that, you know, we have to continue to improve our depth to handle these injuries better in the future. But yeah, we want to make trades; we’re looking to add to our group from that, I don’t think we’ve hid from that situation even all the way back to November. People ask, ‘Well, are you waiting until the trade deadline for these type of things?’ No, we’re open to trying to find something that can certainly add to our group, but it hasn’t materialized. We’ll continue to look at it. There’s no use — and I’ve mentioned this before — there’s no use in saying we’re close on a trade or this and that. Until it actually happens and we announce something, it’s just talk. We’re trying to proceed with some things; it hasn’t materialized, but we’ll continue to look.

MS: Yes, unless you tell us about every conversation you’re having with almost trades, maybe there are hundreds of those. If you could just acknowledge, if you just admit those things, divulge that information…

CP: Those might be more interesting than the actual trade.

MS: …the talk can be more interesting, yes. We would know what’s out there.

JB: The next time here I’ll bring my notebook so you guys can all have it and we can follow up with it.

MS: It would be great if you had, like, stacks of notebooks with these things in it.


MS: Real quick, Jason, one more thing. Goaltending. Carter Hutton is barely playing, lots of goals are going in his last couple of games. Who’s, can you at least say, who would be the guy? Is it [Andrew] Hammond? We’re not watching Rochester. Is he next? Or maybe this is more a question about younger guys, [Ukko-Pekka] Luukkonen or whoever in the organization. What are the options?

JB: We’ve been very happy with how Linus Ullmark has been from a consistency standpoint. He’s been able to handle more of a workload this year. I think he’s done a very good job from that standpoint. We’re disappointed in Carter’s performance. Carter’s disappointed in that performance. And that’s what we’re trying to find: What is the trigger to get him back on track here? The good thing is that’s where his whole career has been. He’s been someone who’s been against the odds, someone who’s been counted out and he’s always found a way to get back, and that’s where his work ethic in practice, we’re hoping that’s going to trigger something here to help him out and help our group out in the second half. You look at it, we’ve had solid goaltending in Rochester throughout the season here. It’s great to see Jonas Johansson make it to the American Hockey League All-Star Game. You talk about a longer-term process, him playing a lot of the games in the East Coast League the last couple of years, now getting the opportunity to step in there. Andrew Hammond’s a veteran player who we feel comfortable playing National Hockey League games. You talked about Luukkonen; we brought him into Rochester this week. That was part of the plan way in advance to get him some experience, practice at the American Hockey League. Going to get an opportunity to play games and then we’ll get him back to the ECHL and continue his development there.


MS: So Johansson is their No. 1 at this time?

JB: Johansson and Hammond are both, they both split the duties from that standpoint.

MS: Ok, and Johnasson is an All-Star?

JB: Yes.

MS: Very good. Thank you, Jason. Nice to see you.

JB: I appreciate it, guys. You have a good evening.


Sabres forward Tage Thompson underwent successful surgery on his right shoulder on Tuesday.

After further evaluation with the Sabres’ team doctors during the rehab process for his injury sustained on Nov. 17, it was determined that surgery was the appropriate next step in Thompson’s recovery process.

Thompson’s expected recovery time will be five to six months.