Game Preview: 12/10/19 vs. St. Louis

GAME-DAY RESOURCES

Game Notes NHL Stats Press Clips

LAST GAME
Sunday, December 8
Buffalo 3 at Edmonton 2 (OT)
Goals: Okposo, Larsson, Miller
Goalie: Ullmark (26 saves/28 shots)
PP: 0/3; PK: 2/3; Shots: Edmonton 28 – Buffalo 22

CURRENT INJURIES – (Man Games Lost: 147)
Player (injury, first game missed) – total games missed
Matt Hunwick (neck, Oct. 3; injured reserve) – 31 games
Vladimir Sobotka (knee, Nov. 9; injured reserve) – 15 games
Tage Thompson (upper body, Nov. 19; injured reserve) – 11 games
Rasmus Dahlin (concussion, Nov. 27; injured reserve) – 7 games

TRANSACTIONS IN PAST 7 DAYS
12/4: Assigned F Jean-Sebastien Dea to Rochester (AHL)
12/7: Activated F Kyle Okposo from IR

UPCOMING GAMES
Tuesday, Dec. 10: St. Louis at Buffalo, 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Dec. 12: Nashville at Buffalo, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 14: Buffalo at NY Islanders, 1 p.m.
Tuesday, Dec. 17: Buffalo at Toronto, 7 p.m.
Thursday, Dec. 19: Buffalo at Philadelphia, 7 p.m.

TONIGHT’S GAME
BLUES at SABRES

  • This is the first of two meetings between the Sabres and Blues this season.
  • Last meeting: Buffalo defeated St. Louis 4-3 (SO) in Buffalo on March 17
  • Next meeting: Thursday, Jan. 9 in St. Louis
  • The Sabres are 2-6-2 in their last 10 games vs. the Blues; 3-7-0 at home.
  • This is the 121st game all-time between Buffalo and St. Louis; Buffalo has a 47-56-17 series record.
  • The Sabres are 32-23-6 at home against the Blues all-time.

THIS DATE IN SABRES HISTORY

  • The Sabres are 10-8-2 all-time on December 10.
  • December 10, 1983: Phil Housley records his 100th NHL point in a 4-2 win at Boston. Housley remains the only defenseman ever to record 100 points for the Sabres before his 20th birthday.
  • December 10, 1989: Dave Andreychuk records his 500th NHL point in a 4-3 win vs. Washington. Andreychuk, who ranks second in Sabres history with 804 points, is one of just 10 players to record 500 points with the team.

THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW

  • After winning the last meeting between the teams in a shootout, the Sabres are looking for consecutive wins against the Blues for the first time since Nov. 12, 2008 and Dec. 27, 2009.
  • Linus Ullmark has stopped 51 of 55 shots (.927) in his two career meetings with St. Louis.
  • According to NaturalStatTrick.com, the Sabres entered play Monday with three players among the league’s leaders in 5-on-5 goals: Jeff Skinner (11, T-7th), Jack Eichel (9, T-15th), Sam Reinhart 9, T-15th).

WHO’S HOT?

  • Jack Eichel has been selected as the NHL’s Third Star of the Week for the week ending Dec. 8 after leading all NHL players with seven points (2+5) in four games last week. It is the fifth “Star of the Week” honor for Eichel in his career and his first of the 2019-20 season.
  • Johan Larsson enters tonight’s game with seven points (1+6) and a plus-6 rating in Buffalo’s last six contests. A point tonight would give him his first three-game point streak since November 2016.
  • Kyle Okposo has scored a goal in both games since returning from a 10-game injury absence. He’s seeking his first three-game goal streak since October 2018.
  • Marcus Johansson currently has points in three straight games (1+2) and his seeking his first four-game point streak since January.
  • Victor Olofsson has recorded 16 points (6+10) in his last 16 games.
  • Linus Ullmark is 4-1-1 with a .922 save percentage in his last six appearances. In those games, Ullmark has posted a .941 save percentage at 5-on-5.

JACK ATTACK

  • Jack Eichel enters today’s game on a career-best 13-game point streak that began on Nov. 16. Entering play Monday, his 10 goals, 23 points and plus-13 rating during the streak all led the NHL during that timeframe. His 13 assists tied Evgeni Malkin for the league lead.
  • Eichel’s streak is the longest active point streak in the NHL and ties as the second-longest streak in the league this season, two games shy of Patrick Kane’s 15-game streak from Nov. 2 to 30 (11+13)
  • The streak is the longest by a Sabre since Tim Connolly tallied points in 16 consecutive games from Dec. 23, 2009 to Jan. 25, 2010. Only six players in Sabres history have recorded a point streak of more than 13 games: Dave Andreychuk (2x), Gilbert Perreault (2x), Tim Connolly, Phil Housley, Rick Martin and Rene Robert.
  • Gilbert Perreault holds Buffalo’s franchise record with points in 18 consecutive games from Oct. 24 to Dec. 4, 1971 (10+21).

EVEN-STRENGTH IMPROVEMENT
The Sabres have seen positive trends at even strength in the team’s 14 games since returning from Stockholm, Sweden. In that span, Buffalo’s 5-on-5 numbers have improved on the team’s per-60 rates from its first 17 games in every meaningful category, including goals for and against, shots for and against, shot attempts for and against, and scoring chances for and against.

Buffalo Sabres at 5-on-5 (via NaturalStatTrick.com)

GF% SF% CF% SCF%
First 17 Games 50.79 48.21 48.61 47.72
Last 14 Games 57.89 50.68 51.16 49.91

During the 14-game stretch that began on Nov. 14 vs. Carolina, the team has tied or led its opponent at 5-on-5 in…

  • goals: 10 times
  • shots: nine times
  • shot attempts: nine times
  • scoring chances: nine times

SETTING THE PACE

  • With 18 goals in 31 games so far this season, Jack Eichel is on pace to shatter his previous best goal total (28), set in the 2018-19 season.
  • Eichel’s output through 31 games currently has him on pace to finish the season with 48 goals and 111 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) and Mogilny (78) in 1992-93 are the only two Sabres ever to have recorded more even-strength points in a season than the 77 Eichel is currently on pace for.
  • Victor Olofsson’s goal and point totals currently have him on pace for the best offensive season by a Sabres rookie in decades. If he maintains his current pace, he would finish the season with the most goals by a Sabres rookie (32) since Ray Sheppard’s 38 in 1987-88 and the most points by a Sabres rookie (69) since Rick Martin’s franchise-record 74 in 1971-72. Gilbert Perreault (72 in 1970-71) is the only other player in franchise history to finish his rookie season with a point total higher than Olofsson’s current pace.
  • Sam Reinhart’s 11 goals in 31 games put him on pace for a career-high goal total (29).

POINTS IN BUNCHES

  • Jack Eichel has recorded 11 multi-point games this season, tying for ninth-most in the NHL before Monday’s games.
  • Entering play Monday, his four multi-goal games tied for fourth-most (one shy of the league lead) and his eight multi-assist games tied for the league lead.
  • 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 Leon Draisaitl (8) and Connor McDavid (8) had more games with at least three points this season entering play Monday.
  • Eichel’s three games with at least four points this season tied for the league lead entering play Monday. Since he entered the league in 2015-16, only seven players have totaled at least four points more times than Eichel’s eight: Nikita Kucherov (15), Patrick Kane (10), Connor McDavid (10), Johnny Gaudreau (9), Brad Marchand (9), Alex Ovechkin (9) and Steven Stamkos (9).

SABRES AMONG LEAGUE-LEADERS (Sabres’ league rankings before 12/9 games)

  • Eichel: 18 G (T-5th), 13 EVG (T-4th), 29 EVP (T-5th), 42 PTS (7th), 24 A (8th),111 S (T-10th)
  • Hutton: 2 SO (T-2nd)
  • Olofsson: 7 PPG (T-5th)
  • Ristolainen: 95 hits (9th)
  • Skinner: 115 S (T-6th)

SABRES REAL-TIME STATS LEADERS
Hits: Ristolainen (95), McCabe (46), Girgensons (45)
Blocked Shots: McCabe (50), Ristolainen (40), Jokiharju (28)
Shots: Skinner (115), Eichel (111), Olofsson (75)

SABRES’ RECORD IN 10 GAME SEGMENTS [W-L-OTL (PTS), GF/GA, PP, PK]
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: 1-0-0 (2), 3/2, 0/3, 2/3

OVERTIME RESULTS (3-5; 123-133 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)

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
Jeff Skinner … 8 games … 700 career games played
Goals
Sam Reinhart … 2 goals … 100 career goals
Kyle Okposo … 10 goals … 200 career goals
Assists
Marco Scandella … 9 assists … 100 career assists
Points
Jimmy Vesey … 2 points … 100 career points
Kyle Okposo … 6 points … 500 career points
Zach Bogosian … 9 points … 200 career points

RECENT MILESTONES
Rasmus Asplund … 1st NHL goal … Dec. 2 vs. NJD
Jack Eichel … 300th NHL point … Dec. 7 at VAN

Game Preview: 12/8/19 at Edmonton

GAME-DAY RESOURCES

Game Notes NHL Stats Press Clips

LAST GAME
Saturday, December 7
Buffalo 5 at Vancouver 6 (OT)
Goals: Okposo, Ristolainen, Olofsson, Girgensons, Johansson
Goalie: Hutton (24 saves/30 shots)
PP: 1/4; PK: 1/2; Shots: Vancouver 30 – Buffalo 28

CURRENT INJURIES – (Man Games Lost: 143)
Player (injury, first game missed) – total games missed
Matt Hunwick (neck, Oct. 3; injured reserve) – 30 games
Vladimir Sobotka (knee, Nov. 9; injured reserve) – 14 games
Tage Thompson (upper body, Nov. 19; injured reserve) – 10 games
Rasmus Dahlin (concussion, Nov. 27; injured reserve) – 6 games

TRANSACTIONS IN PAST 7 DAYS
12/3: Assigned F Curtis Lazar to Rochester (AHL)
12/4: Assigned F Jean-Sebastien Dea to Rochester (AHL)
12/7: Activated F Kyle Okposo from IR

UPCOMING GAMES
Sunday, Dec. 8: Buffalo at Edmonton, 8 p.m.
Tuesday, Dec. 10: St. Louis at Buffalo, 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Dec. 12: Nashville at Buffalo, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 14: Buffalo at NY Islanders, 1 p.m.
Tuesday, Dec. 17: Buffalo at Toronto, 7 p.m.

TONIGHT’S GAME
SABRES at OILERS

  • This is the first of two meetings between the Sabres and Oilers this season.
  • Last meeting: Edmonton defeated Buffalo 7-2 in Edmonton on Jan. 14
  • Next meeting: Thursday, Jan. 2 in Buffalo
  • The Sabres are 4-5-1 in their last 10 games vs. the Oilers; 6-4-0 on the road.
  • This is the 78th game all-time between Buffalo and Edmonton; Buffalo has a 26-40-11 series record.
  • The Sabres are 11-24-3 on the road against the Oilers all-time.

THIS DATE IN SABRES HISTORY

  • The Sabres are 9-6-5 all-time on December 8.
  • December 8, 1974: Gary Bromley needs to make just 14 saves to earn a 5-0 shutout victory against the Minnesota North Stars.

THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW

  • Tonight’s game is the third in a three-game road trip through Western Canada for the Sabres. Buffalo is 13-7-4 against the Pacific Division since the beginning of last season, including a 3-2-3 record in 2019-20.
  • The Sabres are 26-40-11 all-time against the Oilers but are 11-6-1 against Edmonton since 2005-06 and 4-2-0 against them in the last three seasons.
  • All 11 of Jeff Skinner’s goals this season have come during 5-on-5 play. According to NaturalStatTrick.com, he entered play Saturday night tied for sixth-most in the league.

STRIKING OIL

  • Kyle Okposo has tallied 14 points (7+7) in 14 career games against Edmonton. The Oilers are one of four NHL teams (San Jose, Vancouver, Vegas) that he has recorded exactly a point per game against, his highest per-game rate against any team.
  • Rasmus Ristolainen has 14 points (2+12) in 11 career games against the Oilers, including at least a point in each of his last six meetings. It’s his best career per-game output against any NHL opponent.
  • Jack Eichel has totaled nine points (5+4) in seven career games against Edmonton.
  • Casey Mittelstadt scored in both meetings between the Sabres and Oilers last season.

VIC-O MODE

  • Victor Olofsson leads all NHL rookies with 12 goals this season and ranks second among rookies with 28 points.
  • He has recorded 16 points (6+10) in his last 15 games, including two-point outings in each of the team’s last three contests.
  • Olofsson is the first Sabres rookie to record three straight multi-point games since Tyler Ennis did so from Jan. 15 to 20, 2011.
  • The last Sabres rookie to record at least four consecutive multi-point games was Ales Kotalik, who did it in four straight games from Jan. 3 to 10, 2003.

GOING STREAKING

  • Jack Eichel enters today’s game on a career-best 12-game point streak that began on Nov. 16. As of the conclusion of yesterday’s game, his 10 goals and 22 points during the streak led the NHL during that timeframe.
  • Eichel’s streak is the longest active point streak in the NHL and the longest by a Sabre since Tim Connolly tallied points in 16 straight from Dec. 23, 2009 to Jan. 25, 2010.
  • Rasmus Ristolainen enters the game with points in five straight contests (1+5). It is his first five-game streak since Jan. 18 to 25, 2018 (1+5). With a point tonight, he would tie his career-best six straight games with a point from Feb. 12 to 25, 2017 (0+6).

BACK-TO-BACK
Tonight’s game wraps up Buffalo’s eighth of 14 sets of back-to-back games this season, which began with a 6-5 overtime loss yesterday at Vancouver. The Sabres are 3-4-1 in the first game of back-to-back sets and 2-4-1 in the second game so far this season. Buffalo’s point breakdown in previous back-to-back sets is: four points (0), three points (1), two points (4), one point (0) and zero points (2).

EVEN-STRENGTH IMPROVEMENT
The Sabres have seen positive trends at even strength in the team’s 13 games since returning from Stockholm, Sweden. In that span, Buffalo’s 5-on-5 numbers have improved on the team’s per-60 rates from its first 17 games in every meaningful category, including goals for and against, shots for and against, shot attempts for and against, and scoring chances for and against.

Buffalo Sabres at 5-on-5 (via NaturalStatTrick.com)

GF% SF% CF% SCF%
First 17 Games 50.79 48.21 48.61 47.72
Last 13 Games 57.41 50.64 50.64 49.42

During the 13-game stretch that began on Nov. 14 vs. Carolina, the team has tied or led its opponent at 5-on-5 in…

  • goals: nine times
  • shots: eight times
  • shot attempts: eight times
  • scoring chances: eight times

SETTING THE PACE

  • With 18 goals in 30 games so far this season, Jack Eichel is on pace to shatter his previous best goal total (28), set in the 2018-19 season.
  • Eichel’s output through 30 games currently has him on pace to finish the season with 49 goals and 112 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) and Mogilny (78) in 1992-93 are the only two Sabres ever to have recorded more even-strength points in a season than the 77 Eichel is currently on pace for.
  • Victor Olofsson’s goal and point totals currently have him on pace for the best offensive season by a Sabres rookie in decades. If he maintains his current pace, he would finish the season with the most goals by a Sabres rookie (33) since Ray Sheppard’s 38 in 1987-88 and the most points by a Sabres rookie (71) since Rick Martin’s franchise-record 74 in 1971-72. Gilbert Perreault (72 in 1970-71) is the only other player in franchise history to finish his rookie season with a point total higher than Olofsson’s current pace.
  • Sam Reinhart’s 11 goals in 30 games put him on pace for a career-high goal total (30).

POINTS IN BUNCHES

  • Jack Eichel has recorded 11 multi-point games this season, tying for eighth-most in the NHL at the conclusion of yesterday’s game.
  • After yesterday’s game, his four multi-goal games tied for fourth-most (one shy of the league lead) and his eight multi-assist games tied for the league lead.
  • 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 Leon Draisaitl (8) and Connor McDavid (8) had more games with at least three points this season after yesterday’s game.
  • Eichel’s three games with at least four points this season tied for the league lead after yesterday’s game. Since he entered the league in 2015-16, only seven players have totaled at least four points more times than Eichel’s eight: Nikita Kucherov (15), Patrick Kane (10), Connor McDavid (10), Johnny Gaudreau (9), Brad Marchand (9), Alex Ovechkin (9) and Steven Stamkos (9).

ONE BUFFALO

  • The Sabres and the Buffalo Bills are playing on the same day for the third of five times this season after doing so three times last season.
  • The teams have played on the same date 222 times, with both teams winning their respective games on 50 of those days.
  • The Sabres are 119-69-34 when playing on a Bills game day and the Bills enter this game 95-125-2 on those dates.
  • The last time the Sabres and Bills both won on the same date was Nov. 24, 2019.

SABRES AMONG LEAGUE-LEADERS (Sabres’ league rankings after yesterday’s game)

  • Eichel: 18 G (T-5th), 13 EVG (T-4th), 28 EVP (6th), 23 A (T-6th), 41 PTS (7th), 110 S (9th), 13 PPP (T-9th)
  • Hutton: 2 SO (T-2nd)
  • Olofsson: 7 PPG (T-5th)
  • Ristolainen: 92 hits (10th)
  • Skinner: 114 S (5th)

SABRES REAL-TIME STATS LEADERS
Hits: Ristolainen (92), McCabe (46), Girgensons (42)
Blocked Shots: McCabe (50), Ristolainen (39), Jokiharju (27)
Shots: Skinner (114), Eichel (110), Olofsson (75)

SABRES’ RECORD IN 10 GAME SEGMENTS [W-L-OTL (PTS), GF/GA, PP, PK]
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

OVERTIME RESULTS (2-5; 122-133 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)

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)
Goals
Sam Reinhart … 2 goals … 100 career goals
Assists
Marco Scandella … 10 assists … 100 career assists
Points
Jimmy Vesey … 3 points … 100 career points
Zach Bogosian … 9 points … 200 career points

RECENT MILESTONES
Rasmus Asplund … 1st NHL goal … Dec. 2 vs. NJD
Jack Eichel … 300th NHL point … Dec. 7 at VAN

Game Preview: 12/7/19 at Vancouver

GAME-DAY RESOURCES

Game Notes NHL Stats Press Clips

LAST GAME
Thursday, December 5
Buffalo 3 at Calgary 4
Goals: Reinhart, McCabe, Eichel
Goalie: Ullmark (25 saves/29 shots)
PP: 1/8; PK: 1/2; Shots: Calgary 29 – Buffalo 29

CURRENT INJURIES – (Man Games Lost: 139)
Player (injury, first game missed) – total games missed
Matt Hunwick (neck, Oct. 3; injured reserve) – 29 games
Vladimir Sobotka (knee, Nov. 9; injured reserve) – 13 games
Kyle Okposo (concussion, Nov. 17; injured reserve) – 10 games
Tage Thompson (upper body, Nov. 19; injured reserve) – 9 games
Rasmus Dahlin (concussion, Nov. 27; injured reserve) – 5 games

TRANSACTIONS IN PAST 7 DAYS
12/3: Assigned F Curtis Lazar to Rochester (AHL)
12/4: Assigned F Jean-Sebastien Dea to Rochester (AHL)

UPCOMING GAMES
Sunday, Dec. 8: Buffalo at Edmonton, 8 p.m.
Tuesday, Dec. 10: St. Louis at Buffalo, 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Dec. 12: Nashville at Buffalo, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 14: Buffalo at NY Islanders, 1 p.m.
Tuesday, Dec. 17: Buffalo at Toronto, 7 p.m.

TODAY’S GAME
SABRES at CANUCKS

  • This is the first of two meetings between the Sabres and Canucks this season.
  • Last meeting: Vancouver defeated Buffalo 4-3 in Vancouver on Jan. 18
  • Next meeting: Saturday, Jan. 11 in Buffalo
  • The Sabres are 4-6-0 in their last 10 games vs. the Canucks; 2-8-0 on the road.
  • This is the 123rd game all-time between Buffalo and Vancouver; Buffalo has a 50-53-19 series record.
  • The Sabres are 18-32-11 on the road against the Canucks all-time.

THIS DATE IN SABRES HISTORY

  • The Sabres are 5-12-4 all-time on December 7.
  • December 7, 1980: Eleven different Sabres record multi-point games, led by Rick Dudley’s second career hat trick, as the Sabres defeat the Pittsburgh Penguins 10-1 at home.
  • December 7, 2002: The Sabres record the 1,200th win in franchise history on a game-winning goal from Adam Mair, topping the Washington Capitals 4-3 at home.

THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW

  • Today’s game is the second in a three-game road trip through Western Canada for the Sabres. Buffalo is 13-7-3 against the Pacific Division since the beginning of last season, including a 3-2-2 record in 2019-20.
  • Victor Olofsson has recorded 14 points (5+9) in his last 14 games, including two-point outings in the team’s last two contests.
  • All 11 of Jeff Skinner’s goals this season have come during 5-on-5 play. According to NaturalStatTrick.com, he entered play Friday tied for fifth-most in the league.

HOT AGAINST VANCOUVER

  • Rasmus Ristolainen enters today’s game with eight points in his last eight games against the Canucks (2+6), including at least a point in each of his last five (0+6).
  • Jeff Skinner has recorded five points (3+2) in his last five games against Vancouver.
  • Sam Reinhart has scored in each of his last three games against the Canucks, totaling four points (3+1) in those matchups.
  • Marcus Johansson has totaled six points (4+2) in six career visits to Vancouver.
  • Evan Rodrigues has recorded a point in three of his four career games against the Canucks (1+2), including both of his road games (1+1).
  • Carter Hutton is 2-1-0 in four career appearances against the Canucks with a .943 save percentage and a 1.80 goals-against average.

BACK-TO-BACK
Today’s game opens Buffalo’s eighth of 14 sets of back-to-back games this season, which continues tomorrow night at Edmonton. The Sabres are 3-4-0 in the first game of back-to-back sets and 2-4-1 in the second game so far this season. Buffalo’s point breakdown in previous back-to-back sets is: four points (0), three points (1), two points (4), one point (0) and zero points (2).

GOING STREAKING

  • Jack Eichel enters today’s game on an 11-game point streak that began on Nov. 16, tying as the longest streak of his career. Entering play Friday, his 10 goals and 20 points during the league’s longest active streak led the NHL during that timeframe.
  • With a point today, Eichel would have his first career 12-game point streak. It would be the longest point streak recorded by a Sabre since Tim Connolly tallied points in 16 straight from Dec. 23, 2009 to Jan. 25, 2010.
  • Rasmus Ristolainen (1+3) and Brandon Montour (0+4) each enter the game with points in four straight contests. Montour has already tied his longest career point streak, set from Nov. 18 to 25, 2018 (1+5). With a point today, Ristolainen would have his first five-game streak since Jan. 18 to 25, 2018 (1+5) and would be one game shy of his career-best six straight games with a point.

EVEN-STRENGTH IMPROVEMENT
The Sabres have seen positive trends at even strength in the team’s 12 games since returning from Stockholm, Sweden. In that span, Buffalo’s 5-on-5 numbers have improved on the team’s per-60 rates from its first 17 games in every meaningful category, including goals for and against, shots for and against, shot attempts for and against, and scoring chances for and against.

Buffalo Sabres at 5-on-5 (via NaturalStatTrick.com)

GF% SF% CF% SCF%
First 17 Games 50.79 48.21 48.61 47.72
Last 12 Games 60.42 51.13 50.70 49.06

During the 12-game stretch that began on Nov. 14 vs. Carolina, the team has tied or led its opponent at 5-on-5 in…

  • goals: nine times
  • shots: eight times
  • shot attempts: seven times
  • scoring chances: seven times

SETTING THE PACE

  • With 18 goals in 29 games so far this season, Jack Eichel is on pace to shatter his previous best goal total (28), set in the 2018-19 season.
  • Eichel’s output through 29 games currently has him on pace to finish the season with 51 goals and 110 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) and Mogilny (78) in 1992-93 are the only two Sabres ever to have recorded more even-strength points in a season than the 76 Eichel is currently on pace for.
  • Victor Olofsson’s goal and point totals currently have him on pace for the best offensive season by a Sabres rookie in decades. If he maintains his current pace, he would finish the season with the most goals by a Sabres rookie (31) since Ray Sheppard’s 38 in 1987-88 and the most points by a Sabres rookie (68) since Rick Martin’s franchise-record 74 in 1971-72. Gilbert Perreault (72 in 1970-71) is the only other player in franchise history to finish his rookie season with a point total higher than Olofsson’s current pace.
  • Sam Reinhart’s 10 goals in 29 games put him on pace for a career-high goal total (28).

POINTS IN BUNCHES

  • Jack Eichel has recorded 10 multi-point games this season, tying for 10th-most in the NHL before Friday’s games.
  • Entering play Friday, his four multi-goal games tied for fourth-most (one shy of the league lead) and his seven multi-assist games tied for third-most (also one behind the league leaders).
  • 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 Leon Draisaitl (8) and Connor McDavid (8) had more games with at least three points this season entering play Friday.
  • Eichel’s three games with at least four points this season tied for the league lead entering play Friday. Since he entered the league in 2015-16, only seven players have totaled at least four points more times than Eichel’s eight: Nikita Kucherov (15), Patrick Kane (10), Connor McDavid (10), Johnny Gaudreau (9), Brad Marchand (9), Alex Ovechkin (9) and Steven Stamkos (9).

SABRES AMONG LEAGUE-LEADERS (Sabres’ league rankings before 12/6 games)

  • Eichel: 18 G (T-4th), 13 EVG (T-4th), 27 EVP (T-6th), 39 PTS (7th), 109 S (T-7th), 21 A (T-8th)
  • Hutton: 2 SO (T-2nd)
  • Olofsson: 6 PPG (T-7th)
  • Ristolainen: 91 hits (10th)
  • Skinner: 109 S (T-7th), 11 EVG (T-10th)
  • Ullmark: 1 SO (T-10th)

SABRES REAL-TIME STATS LEADERS
Hits: Ristolainen (91), McCabe (46), Girgensons (40)
Blocked Shots: McCabe (48), Ristolainen (38), Jokiharju (27)
Shots: Eichel (109), Skinner (109), Olofsson (70)

SABRES’ RECORD IN 10 GAME SEGMENTS [W-L-OTL (PTS), GF/GA, PP, PK]
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: 3-4-2 (8), 29/28, 3/29, 22/30

OVERTIME RESULTS (2-4; 122-132 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)

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)
Goals
Sam Reinhart … 3 goals … 100 career goals
Assists
Marco Scandella … 10 assists … 100 career assists
Points
Jack Eichel … 2 points … 300 career points
Jimmy Vesey … 3 points … 100 career points
Zach Bogosian … 9 points … 200 career points

RECENT MILESTONES
Rasmus Asplund … 1st NHL goal … Dec. 2 vs. NJD

Game Preview: 12/5/19 at Calgary

GAME-DAY RESOURCES

Game Notes NHL Stats Press Clips

LAST GAME
Monday, December 2
New Jersey 1 at Buffalo 7
Goals: Sheary (2), Eichel, Skinner, Asplund, Olofsson, Jokiharju
Goalie: Ullmark (44 saves/45 shots)
PP: 1/2; PK: 3/4; Shots: New Jersey 45 – Buffalo 32

CURRENT INJURIES – (Man Games Lost: 134)
Player (injury, first game missed) – total games missed
Matt Hunwick (neck, Oct. 3; injured reserve) – 28 games
Vladimir Sobotka (knee, Nov. 9; injured reserve) – 12 games
Kyle Okposo (concussion, Nov. 17; injured reserve) – 9 games
Tage Thompson (upper body, Nov. 19; injured reserve) – 8 games
Evan Rodrigues (lower body, Nov. 25) – 5 games
Rasmus Dahlin (concussion, Nov. 27; injured reserve) – 4 games

TRANSACTIONS IN PAST 7 DAYS
12/3: Assigned F Curtis Lazar to Rochester (AHL)
12/4: Assigned F Jean-Sebastien Dea to Rochester (AHL)

UPCOMING GAMES
Saturday, Dec. 7: Buffalo at Vancouver, 4 p.m.
Sunday, Dec. 8: Buffalo at Edmonton, 8 p.m.
Tuesday, Dec. 10: St. Louis at Buffalo, 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Dec. 12: Nashville at Buffalo, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 14: Buffalo at NY Islanders, 1 p.m.

TONIGHT’S GAME
SABRES at FLAMES

  • This is the second of two meetings between the Sabres and Flames this season.
  • Last meeting: Calgary defeated Buffalo 3-2 (OT) in Buffalo on Nov. 27
  • The Sabres are 4-3-3 in their last 10 games vs. the Flames; 3-6-1 on the road.
  • This is the 111th game all-time between Buffalo and Calgary; Buffalo has a 53-37-20 series record.
  • The Sabres are 20-23-12 on the road against the Flames all-time.

THIS DATE IN SABRES HISTORY

  • The Sabres are 10-6-3 all-time on December 5.
  • December 5, 1971: Craig Ramsay records the first natural hat trick in Sabres history, leading the team to a 3-1 win at home against the Minnesota North Stars.
  • December 5, 1974: Gilbert Perreault scores a hat trick and Jim Lorentz leads the team with five points in a 9-2 win against the Washington capitals.
  • December 5, 1997: Dominik Hasek makes 38 saves in a 4-0 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning to record his third of a career-high 13 shutouts during the 1997-98 season.

THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW

  • Buffalo is 13-6-3 against the Pacific Division since the beginning of last season, including a 3-0-2 record in their last five games.
  • The Sabres and Flames have had five of their last seven games decided by an overtime goal, including each of the last three meetings in Calgary.
  • With a Sabres win tonight, Buffalo and Calgary will have split their season series for six consecutive seasons.
  • Jack Eichel has recorded a point in each of his last five meetings with Calgary, totaling six points (4+2) in those games.
  • Linus Ullmark has gone 3-0-1 in his last four appearances. With a win or overtime loss tonight, Ullmark would have five straight appearances without a regulation loss for the first time in his career.
  • Victor Olofsson has recorded points in 11 of his last 13 games (5+7).
  • All 11 of Jeff Skinner’s goals this season have come during 5-on-5 play. According to NaturalStatTrick.com, he entered play Wednesday tied for fifth-most in the league.
  • Sabres prospect Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen was named the ECHL Goaltender of the Month for November. Luukkonen posted a record of 6-2-1 in nine appearances for the Cincinnati Cyclones during the month, logging a 1.88 goals-against average and a .925 save percentage in those games.

EVEN-STRENGTH IMPROVEMENT
The Sabres have seen positive trends at even strength in the team’s 11 games since returning from Stockholm, Sweden. In that span, Buffalo’s 5-on-5 numbers have improved on the team’s per-60 rates from its first 17 games in every meaningful category, including goals for and against, shots for and against, shot attempts for and against, and scoring chances for and against.

Buffalo Sabres at 5-on-5 (via NaturalStatTrick.com)

GF% SF% CF% SCF%
First 17 Games 50.79 48.21 48.61 47.72
Last 11 Games 61.36 51.32 51.41 50.92

During the 11-game stretch that began on Nov. 14 vs. Carolina, the team has tied or led its opponent at 5-on-5 in…

  • goals: eight times
  • shots: eight times
  • shot attempts: seven times
  • scoring chances: seven times

BALANCED PRODUCTION

  • The Sabres have had three forward trios play together in each of the team’s last four games. Those three lines have each scored at 5-on-5 while on the ice together during that four-game stretch:
    • Olofsson-Eichel-Reinhart: 3 GF, 0 GA
    • Skinner-Larsson-Sheary: 3 GF, 1 GA
    • Mittelstadt-Johansson-Vesey: 1 GF, 1 GA
  • The line of Jeff Skinner, Johan Larsson and Conor Sheary has out-chanced its opponents at 5-on-5 in every game it’s played together, outscoring opponents 4-1 in 43:00 of 5-on-5 time together this season according to NaturalStatTrick.com.

Sabres Lines at 5-on-5, Entire 2019-20 season (via NaturalStatTrick.com)

Line TOI GF GA SF% CF% SCF%
Olofsson-Eichel-Reinhart 326:00 17 14 51.98 50.16 52.29
Skinner-Larsson-Sheary 43:00 4 1 54.72 55.42 70.27
Mittelstadt-Johansson-Vesey 52:04 1 2 53.13 53.77 47.73

GOING STREAKING

  • Jack Eichel enters today’s game on a 10-game point streak that began on Nov. 16. Entering play Wednesday, his 19 points (9+10) during the league’s longest active streak led the NHL during that timeframe.
  • Eichel has recorded at least one assist in each of the last eight games. With an assist tonight, he’d tie the longest assist streak of his career, set from Feb. 14 to March 4, 2017.
  • Rasmus Ristolainen (1+2) and Brandon Montour (0+3) each enter the game with points in three straight contests. With points tonight, Montour would tie his longest career point streak, set from Nov. 18 to 25, 2018 (1+5), and Ristolainen would set a new season best.

SETTING THE PACE

  • With 17 goals in 28 games so far this season, Jack Eichel is on pace to shatter his previous best goal total (28), set in the 2018-19 season.
  • Eichel’s output through 28 games currently has him on pace to finish the season with 50 goals and 111 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.
  • Sam Reinhart’s nine goals in 28 games put him on pace for a career-high goal total (26).
  • Victor Olofsson’s goal and point totals currently have him on pace for the best offensive season by a Sabres rookie in decades. If he maintains his current pace, he would finish the season with the most goals (32) and points (64) by a Sabres rookie since Ray Sheppard’s 65 points (38+27) in 1987-88.

POINTS IN BUNCHES

  • Jack Eichel has recorded 10 multi-point games this season, tying for ninth-most in the NHL before Wednesday’s games.
  • Entering play Wednesday, his four multi-goal games tied for fourth-most (one shy of the league lead) and his seven multi-assist games tied for third-most (also one behind the league leaders).
  • 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 Leon Draisaitl (8) and Connor McDavid (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 the league lead entering play Wednesday. Since he entered the league in 2015-16, only seven players have totaled at least four points more times than Eichel’s eight: Nikita Kucherov (15), Patrick Kane (10), Connor McDavid (10), Johnny Gaudreau (9), Brad Marchand (9), Alex Ovechkin (9) and Steven Stamkos (9).

SABRES AMONG LEAGUE-LEADERS (Sabres’ league rankings before 12/4 games)

  • Eichel: 561 FO (4th), 13 EVG (T-4th), 17 G (T-6th), 27 EVP (T-6th), 38 PTS (7th), 21 A (T-8th), 104 S (T-8th), 266 FOW (T-9th), 1 OTG (T-10th)
  • Hutton: 2 SO (T-2nd)
  • Johansson: 1 OTG (T-10th)
  • Olofsson: 6 PPG (T-6th)
  • Ristolainen: 88 hits (T-9th)
  • Skinner: 11 EVG (T-9th), 102 S (T-10th)
  • Ullmark: 1 SO (T-10th)

BUF-CGY CONNECTIONS

  • Sabres defenseman Zach Bogosian played in Winnipeg with Flames forward Michael Frolik for two seasons (2013-14 to 2014-15).
  • Sabres forward Jack Eichel and Flames forward Derek Ryan played for Team USA together at the 2019 IIHF World Championship.
  • Sabres forward Jack Eichel won a bronze medal with Flames defenseman Noah Hanifin while representing the United States at the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship. The two were later teammates at the 2017 and 2019 IIHF World Championships.
  • Sabres forward Marcus Johansson won a silver medal with Flames forward Mikael Backlund for Team Sweden at the 2009 IIHF World Junior Championship.
  • Sabres forward Johan Larsson and Flames forward Mikael Backlund won a gold medal together while representing Sweden at the 2018 IIHF World Championship.
  • Sabres defenseman Colin Miller was a teammate of Flames forward Zac Rinaldo in Boston for one season (2015-16).
  • Sabres defenseman Jake McCabe and forward Jimmy Vesey won a gold medal for Team USA with Flames forward Johnny Gaudreau at the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship.
  • Sabres defenseman Jake McCabe played with Flames defenseman Noah Hanifin at the 2016 IIHF World Championship.
  • Sabres forward Sam Reinhart won a gold medal for Team Canada with Flames goaltender Cam Talbot at the 2016 IIHF World Championship.
  • Sabres defenseman Marco Scandella won a silver medal with Flames defenseman Travis Hamonic at the 2010 IIHF World Junior Championship.
  • Sabres forward Jeff Skinner played for the Hurricanes with Flames defenseman Noah Hanifin (2015-16 to 2017-18), forward Elias Lindholm (2013-14 to 2017-18) and forward Derek Ryan (2015-16 to 2017-18).
  • Sabres forward Jeff Skinner played for Team Canada with Flames defenseman TJ Brodie at the 2013 IIHF World Championship.
  • Sabres goaltender Linus Ullmark and Flames forward Mikael Backlund played for Team Sweden together at the 2014 IIHF World Championship.

SABRES REAL-TIME STATS LEADERS
Hits: Ristolainen (88), McCabe (44), Girgensons (39)
Blocked Shots: McCabe (48), Ristolainen (37), Jokiharju/Scandella (26)
Shots: Eichel (104), Skinner (102), Olofsson (69)

SABRES’ RECORD IN 10 GAME SEGMENTS [W-L-OTL (PTS), GF/GA, PP, PK]
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: 3-3-2 (8), 26/24, 2/21, 21/28

OVERTIME RESULTS (2-4; 122-132 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)

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)
Goals
Sam Reinhart … 4 goals … 100 career goals
Assists
Marco Scandella … 10 assists … 100 career assists
Points
Jack Eichel … 3 points … 300 career points
Jimmy Vesey … 3 points … 100 career points
Zach Bogosian … 9 points … 200 career points

RECENT MILESTONES
Jake McCabe … 300th NHL game … Nov. 30 at TOR
Rasmus Asplund … 1st NHL goal … Dec. 2 vs. NJD

Ralph Krueger Interview – Howard & Jeremy (12/4/19)

December 4, 2019

 

Ralph Krueger

Howard & Jeremy (8 a.m.)

https://wgr550.radio.com/media/audio-channel/12-04-sabres-head-coach-ralph-krueger-with-howard-and-jeremy (12:59)

 

Howard Simon: Ralph, it’s Howard and Jeremy. Good morning, welcome to the show sir.

Ralph Krueger: Good morning, Howard and Jeremy. Good morning, listeners.

 

HS: Let’s — quick injury update. [Evan] Rodrigues [is] back at practice, so would he be playing on this trip then? Is he cleared to play and would he play on this road trip?

RK: Yeah, Rodrigues is definitely back up to speed and it was good to see him in the group yesterday, but it was his first skate so we’ll be integrating him gradually. But he should be available. We’re going to do one more practice again today, which is a beautiful thing — two practices in two days. We’ll know more after today, for sure, but he’s very close.

 

HS: And what is the latest on Kyle Okposo?

RK: We’ll we’re so happy to see Kyle back on the ice yesterday. I mean, we all know how much was on the line here with another head injury. We’re pleased to see him back. He felt good yesterday in practice. We’ll be taking it slower with Kyle for sure, but he’s very close, which is good. I mean, these are experienced guys who help in the maturity of the process that we’re in right now. We were all happy to see Kyle on the ice yesterday practicing with us.

 

HS: And with Rasmus Dahlin, is there a timeline with him? Is he even going on the trip?

RK: Rasmus is not going on the trip. That’s one, also, where we need to be careful on. We’re happy with the progress that he’s making and we’re optimistic that we’ll have him back soon, but we’re going to leave him here for rehab one more week and hopefully he can reintegrate next week.

 

Jeremy White: Ralph, when it comes to your defense pairings, how do you decide who’s going to go together? Do you have a rhyme or reason? Is it a feeling-out process for you being a coach that’s still just on the job for a few months?

RK: Well when you look at us playing seven (forwards) and 11 (defensemen), which is very rare in the National Hockey League, we’ve had a lot of success with that in this past week. For your listeners, that would mean seven defensemen rotating in seven different pairs. So each player actually has two partners that he goes with, so you can get a seven-pair rotation, if that makes any sense. It’s worked really well for us. It’s kept the group energized. We played an NHL-record five games in seven nights last week and I think that that was testing our fitness and our ability to adjust to that. Getting points right through the week was an extremely positive sign for where we’re at. But it’s definitely, looking at the, you know, right [and] left sticks, but also mixing the offensive and defensive components in those pairs as they come together. The 11 forwards has been interesting too. It’s difficult to match against us because we have a line with [Rasmus] Asplund and [Zemgus] Girgensons that’ll have anybody injected in there. Jack [Eichel] will play with them or you’ll have [Jeff Skinner] in there or other players. So the opposition coach has a little bit of trouble reading us. On the road this week we might stick with that strategy, but we’ll just keep in in the pocket for now.

 

JW: Yeah, it’s like load management’s a big-time buzz phrase in the sports world, and we’ve talked about it with you about morning skates. You feel like this 7-11, while it might be rare and maybe not ideal or maybe it ends up working out, could it be something that you do employ if it continues to work? Could the NHL largely move this way? There’s some talk about positionless games, where defensemen move around a little bit and the evolution of the game. I just — I wonder about the load management because, as you mentioned, the numbers, the minutes for each of your defenseman has come down.

RK: Well you’ve nailed it right on the head there because the game is evolving in a way where if you watch us play, we work in a group of five all the time and if a defenseman does get ahead of the forwards, [the forward has] got to cover for [the defenseman] and take his spot, and vice versa. A forward could be the first one back in the D-zone and the D-man has to cover up. I think that’s what’s making so exciting right now and so dynamic. It’s brought a lot more speed into the game. In the old days, the D weren’t allowed to go down below the top of the circles and the forwards wouldn’t come back. The wingers would never come back and play down low in their own end, and that’s all off the map now. It’s part of the beauty of the game and it never stops evolving. We need to evolve with it now. The only team that’s used that 7-11 quite a bit, that was Tampa Bay last year, actually, and they ended up with a record season. Watching that example in how Jon Cooper was doing it was one of the things that I thought was interesting. And I’m glad to see it’s one of the tools we have in our box now. We’ll definitely have many games of six (defensemen), 12 (forwards), but dropping back to that depending on injuries and depending on the need and the pace of the games, we can do both, which is good to have different looks going, especially on the road.

 

HS: It’s interesting, because in years past, Ralph, when it comes to D-pairings, right, we always would be told or hear, “Well you want to be able to lock those guys in. They get to know each other. Communication is better.” All these different things. And yet, when you play seven, I was saying, I haven’t tracked it. Are you — you’re rotating all seven guys? You’re not taking one pairing and saying, “Okay, you two are going to stay together.” What happened to the whole, “Hey, it’s good for these guys to play together”? You’re constantly changing up the pairings in the game. 

RK: Each player only has two partners, right? It’s not as complex as it might sound. But in the end it’s about playing within our principles and within our desired structure. We’ve been speaking weekly now right through the season and we’ve had some ups early on, we had some downs, we’ve kind of settled into a consistent game now. Over the last seven games we feel we’ve been playing quite consistent compared to the first 21, which is a good feeling to have. But a lot of it has to do with when you do have different beside you, your fallback is what the team needs and what the principles and concepts of the team are. I think that this variety at the moment is actually helping us to play more of a team game and eventually you do look for synergies. Now Eichel, [Sam] Reinhart and [Victor] Olofsson have been playing almost the whole season together as a forward line, so we are looking for synergy in other areas or on the power play, which struggled quite a bit lately and is starting to find its legs again. We have been moving bodies in and out. But you’re right, over time you will end up with pairs and lines that have that synergy. But at the moment in our evolution, I think it’s a good thing to be doing.

 

JW: You mentioned that top line, Ralph. Your patience paid off — Victor Olofsson scoring at even strength. Have you seen anything different in his game that has led to that or did you really think that if everything stayed the same, it would just come eventually?

RK: Yeah, it was just the habits he has are outstanding and he is extremely responsible defensively, too. And what that does is he often is above the puck. When it becomes available to us, Jack and Sam are so good at puck possession, Victor’s outstanding at finding the holes. His shot is a lethal weapon that we’re seeing more and more. It’s his first season in the National Hockey League and we all know that that takes time before you reach your peak, and his peak is still a long way to go so we’ve all — everybody in Buffalo’s got to be really excited about that.

 

JW: The driver of that line, Jack Eichel, I think a lot of people have noticed this year might be his best year defensively. Maybe buying in a little bit more, doing a little bit more of a 200-foot game. Is there anything specific that you did with him or your conversations with him brought about this change and this, perhaps this next level in that part of his game?

RK: Well, I would go beyond a little bit more; I’d say a lot more. He just really is maturing quickly and understanding what we need in the game. And his offense actually is profiting from it. He’s so well positioned defensively. He’s as quick back into our own end as anybody on the team and understands what his responsibilities are. A lot of our offense comes out of the good defense that we’re playing at times and we can explode the other way with the defense involved, and Jack is just as, again, as strong and as quick as anybody in the league. He uses that now on both sides of the puck and he’s having a lot of fun with it, so we’re really pleased. He’s a leader off the ice, but he’s definitely also an example and a leader on the ice. It’s hard sometimes to believe that he’s only 23 years of age.

 

HS: You referenced the power play a moment ago. You got a goal the other night, but it had been at, like, a 1-for-37 or something funk. What have the coaches — what have you been telling the power-play units in terms of, is there anything you want to see them do differently to try and get it going again?

RK: What you actually have to stop talking about is scoring because then they squeeze the sticks and think about the end product versus the process to get there and the habits that we need. We got away from some of the habits that are fundamentally important for a good power play and we’re concentrating on those. In the end, it all begins with hard work. If we have struggles in any area of our game, we need to work hard at it, we’re doing video, we’re doing on-ice, we did a couple of practice sessions in the last two practices. We had one goal in the last game that fell two seconds after a PK ended. The power play got some confidence back last game for sure. It always comes back to the fundamentals, guys. It’s about working on those and keeping those in check. We drifted a little bit away from that, but I feel confident that the power play will have a good run here in Canada this week.

 

JW: One last question for me, Ralph: The sport’s kind of going through a bit of a reckoning when it comes to coaches. I saw the NHL Coaches Association issued a statement about respecting players and maintaining a healthy environment.

HS: And it sounds like the Board of Governors is going to address this Monday at their meeting.

JW: If I may, I would say all that we hear about players that play for you is how much they enjoy playing for you. I just wonder what your feeling is on the culture of the sport, on what it’s like to be a coach, whether it’s a generational change or if it’s the style of person that becomes a coach changes or any of that regarding what the NHL is kind of going through right now.

RK: Well what it’s going to definitely do is influence coaches from here forward and in the future; the accountability will be high. I can only say from my side, I have said a clear statement that I don’t know the facts or the individuals that well, having not been in the NHL over the last few years, so I’m not in a position to judge. All I can do is try and hope that coaches — especially that are coaching kids in and around the Buffalo region — in any sport think about the importance of, number one, respecting the individuals that we’re leading and the importance and understanding of the influence we have on them. I think everybody should be out there trying to catch players doing things right. Whether it’s male or female athletes that we’re leading, let’s try to catch them doing things right. Let’s inspire them to be better. And when we criticize them, let’s make sure it’s part of a sandwich. Let’s give them examples of how they should do things and in between you might make some corrections and then give them support morally again because in the end, I think, treating people right is the most important thing that leaders need to have. If this whole situation now leads to more of that happening, especially with children or with younger athletes, then even this adversity that we’re going through right now will end up being a good thing. We try to create an environment of respect here. Everything’s on the table. We tell the truth, which isn’t always friendly. We don’t just sit in our locker room and tell the players everything is right all the time, and it’s the way we do it that counts in the end. We will continue to work for that environment here in Buffalo with all our hearts in the coaching room.