Game Preview: 3/7/20 at Philadelphia

GAME-DAY RESOURCES

Game Notes NHL Stats Press Clips

LAST GAME
Thursday, March 5
Pittsburgh 4 at Buffalo 2
Goals: McCabe, Johansson
Goalie: Johansson (28 saves/32 shots)
PP: 0/3; PK: 2/3; Shots: Pittsburgh 32 – Buffalo 30

CURRENT INJURIES – (Man Games Lost: 323)
Player (injury, first game missed) – total games missed
Matt Hunwick (neck, Oct. 3; injured reserve) – 67 games
Vladimir Sobotka (knee, Nov. 9; injured reserve) – 51 games
Tage Thompson (shoulder, Nov. 19; injured reserve) – 47 games
Linus Ullmark (lower body, Jan. 30) – 17 games

TRANSACTIONS IN PAST 7 DAYS
3/6: Activated G Linus Ullmark from IR; Assigned G Jonas Johansson to Rochester (AHL)
3/7: Recalled D John Gilmour from Rochester (AHL)

UPCOMING GAMES
Monday, March 9: Washington at Buffalo, 7 p.m.
Thursday, March 12: Buffalo at Montreal, 7 p.m.
Friday, March 13: Boston at Buffalo, 7 p.m.
Sunday, March 15: Carolina at Buffalo, 5 p.m.
Tuesday, March 17: Buffalo at Carolina, 7 p.m.

TONIGHT’S GAME
SABRES at FLYERS

  • This is the second of three meetings between the Sabres and Flyers this season.
  • Last meeting: Philadelphia defeated Buffalo 6-1 in Philadelphia on Dec. 19, 2019.
  • Next meeting: Saturday, April 4 in Buffalo
  • The Sabres are 3-6-1 in their last 10 games vs. the Flyers; 2-7-1 on the road.
  • This is the 181st game all-time between Buffalo and Philadelphia; Buffalo has a 69-87-24 series record.
  • The Sabres are 25-53-14 on the road against the Flyers all-time.

THIS DATE IN SABRES HISTORY

  • The Sabres are 8-9-6 all-time on March 7.
  • March 7, 2002: Martin Biron turns aside 26 New York Islanders shots to earn the first of two shutouts on back-to-back nights, a feat he would complete with another 26-save performance the following night against Montreal.
  • March 7, 2016: Jack Eichel becomes the youngest Sabre ever to reach the 20-goal mark (19 years, 131 days) with his goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW

  • The Sabres are 7-5-3 against the Metropolitan Division this season.
  • Jack Eichel has totaled 11 points (8+3) in his 11 career games against Philadelphia, including at least a point in each of the last five meetings (5+2).
  • Jeff Skinner has eight points (4+4) in his last eight visits to Philadelphia.
  • Rasmus Dahlin has a point in each of his last two games against the Flyers, tallying an assist in both games.
  • Dominik Kahun tied his career high with three points (1+2) in his last meeting with the Flyers on Oct. 29, 2019.
  • If he dresses tonight, Colin Miller will appear in his 300th NHL game.

TEEN TITAN

  • Rasmus Dahlin has totaled 82 points (13+69) through his first 139 NHL games, including 38 points (4+34) in 57 games this season.
  • With his assist on Feb. 18 at Ottawa, Dahlin passed Ray Bourque (79) for the second-most points recorded by an NHL defenseman before his 20th birthday. He now trails only Phil Housley (132) for the most points ever recorded by a teenage defenseman.
  • Dahlin’s .59 points per game in his career rank as the 15th-highest rate among active NHL defensemen with at least 10 career games played. His .67 points per game so far this season represent the best single-season scoring rate by a Sabres defenseman since Brian Campbell (.68) in 2007-08.

SETTING THE PACE

  • Jack Eichel is currently on pace to finish the season with 43 goals and 94 points, which would be the highest goal and point totals by a Sabre since Thomas Vanek (43 goals) and Daniel Briere (95 points) in 2006-07.
  • Sam Reinhart scored his 20th goal of the season in his 55th game on Feb. 7 at NY Rangers, surpassing the 2015-16 season as his previous quickest season to 20 goals (69 games). Reinhart is currently on pace to set a new career high in goals (27).
  • Victor Olofsson, who has missed 15 games due to injury this season, is on pace to score 24 goals. If he maintains his current pace, his output will tie Eichel (2015-16) for seventh-most among all rookies in franchise history.

JACK ATTACK

  • With an assist on Feb. 11 vs. Detroit, Jack Eichel became the 14th player ever to record 70 points in consecutive seasons at least once as a member of the Sabres.
    • He needs three points to become just the ninth player in franchise history to record 80 points in back-to-back seasons at least once. He would join Danny Gare, Dale Hawerchuk, Pat LaFontaine, Rick Martin, Alexander Mogilny, Gilbert Perreault, Rene Robert and Pierre Turgeon.
  • With his 40th assist on Feb. 13 vs. Columbus, Eichel became the first Sabres player to record 30 goals and 40 assists in a season since Jason Pominville (30+43) in 2011-12. He became the 16th different player in franchise history to accomplish this feat at least once.

POINTS IN BUNCHES

  • Jack Eichel has recorded 20 multi-point games this season, ranking as the 13th-most in the NHL entering play Friday. The Sabres are 15-3-2 (.800) in those games.
  • Eichel’s seven multi-goal games tied for fifth-most in the league and his 11 multi-assist games tied for 11th-most.
  • Sam Reinhart ranks second on the Sabres with 13 multi-point games this season. The team is 10-2-1 this season (.808) and 41-7-8 (.804) in his career when he records at least two points.

SABRES AMONG LEAGUE-LEADERS (Sabres’ league rankings before 3/6 games)

  • Eichel: 3 OTG (T-2nd), 9 GWG (T-3rd), 35 G (T-7th), 77 PTS (T-10th), 24 EVG (T-10th), 26 PPP (T-10th)
  • Olofsson: 11 PPG (T-8th)
  • Ristolainen: 198 hits (9th)

SABRES REAL-TIME STATS LEADERS
Hits: Ristolainen (198), Girgensons (107), McCabe (85)
Blocked Shots: McCabe (87), Ristolainen (81), Jokiharju (58)
Shots: Eichel (220), Skinner (174), Reinhart (137)

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, 23/32a
31-40: 4-5-1 (9), 24/32, 4/23, 23/30
41-50: 5-5-0 (10), 30/32, 7/29, 21/29
51-60: 5-4-1 (11), 28/33, 5/23, 13/17
61-70: 2-5-0 (4), 16/22, 2/16, 10/14

OVERTIME RESULTS (6-6; 126-134 all-time)
Oct. 7 at CBJ: L, 4-3 (Texier, 2:08)
Oct. 9 vs. MTL: W, 5-4 (Johansson, 1:30)
Oct. 22 vs. SJS: W, 4-3 (Eichel, 3:13)
Nov. 14 vs. CAR: L, 5-4 (Hamilton, 2:28)
Nov. 27 vs. CGY: L, 3-2 (Lindholm, 1:17)
Nov. 30 at TOR: L, 2-1 (Tavares, 1:45)
Dec. 7 at VAN: L, 6-5 (Miller, 3:21)
Dec. 8 at EDM: W, 3-2 (Miller, 1:13)
Dec. 14 at NYI: L, 3-2 (Beauvillier, 3:04)
Jan. 2 vs. EDM: W, 3-2 (Eichel, 1:09)
Feb. 1 vs. CBJ: W, 2-1 (Eichel, 0:36)
Feb. 13 vs. CBJ: W, 4-3 (Olofsson, 2:44)

SHOOTOUT RESULTS (1-2; 76-71 all-time)
Oct. 11 vs. FLA: W, 3-2 (GDG-Eichel)
Oct. 28 vs. ARI: L, 3-2 (GDG-Schmaltz)
Feb. 6 vs. DET: L, 4-3 (GDG-Larkin)

MILESTONES APPROACHING (Player … Needs … Milestone)
Games Played
Colin Miller … 1 game … 300 career games played
Kyle Okposo … 2 games … 800 career games played
Sam Reinhart … 2 games … 400 career games played
Linus Ullmark … 4 games … 100 career games played
Johan Larsson … 9 games … 400 career games played
Rasmus Ristolainen … 9 games … 500 career games played
Goals
Kyle Okposo … 4 goals … 200 career goals
Points
Wayne Simmonds … 1 point … 500 career points
Johan Larsson … 3 points … 100 career points
Brandon Montour … 9 points … 100 career points
Wins
Carter Hutton … 7 wins … 100 career wins 

RECENT MILESTONES
N/A

Post-Game Report: 3/5 vs. Pittsburgh

Final Score

1st 2nd 3rd OT SO Final SOG
Penguins
(39-21-6)
2 1 1 4 32
Sabres
(29-30-8)
1 0 1 2 30

Game Summary

Event Summary

 

Top Notes

  • With tonight’s loss, the Sabres have gone 2-1-0 against the Penguins for the second consecutive season.
  • Jake McCabe’s goal tonight was his second career shorthanded tally and first since Jan. 8, 2019 vs. New Jersey.
  • With his goal tonight, Marcus Johansson now has five points (2+3) in his last five games against the Penguins.
  • With the primary assist on Johansson’s goal, Dominik Kahun has recorded three points (1+2) in his four games as a Sabre since being acquired from Pittsburgh on Feb. 24.
  • Rasmus Dahlin earned an assist on the Johansson goal to give him a point in each of the team’s three games against Pittsburgh this season (1+2).

 

Tonight’s Goaltenders

Tonight’s Stats
Team Goaltender Decision GA SA
Penguins Murray W 2 30
Sabres Johansson L 4 32
Updated Season Stats
Team Goaltender Record SV% GAA
Penguins Murray 19-10-5 .900 2.83
Sabres Johansson 1-3-1 .894 2.94

 

Post-Game Audio

Sabres head coach Ralph Krueger

Sabres forward Marcus Johansson

Sabres forward Dominik Kahun

Sabres defenseman Jake McCabe

Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan

Penguins forward Patric Hornqvist

Penguins forward Nick Bjugstad

Penguins goaltender Matt Murray

Jason Botterill Interview – Schopp & Bulldog (3/5/20)

March 5, 2020

 

Jason Botterill

Schopp and Bulldog (5:30 p.m.)

https://wgr550.radio.com/media/audio-channel/3-5-jason-botterill (18:02)

 

Mike Schopp: How did you grow up, Jason? Did you grow up [in a] modest neighborhood? How did you grow up?

Jason Botterill: Blue collar family in Winnipeg. Both my parents — my mom was an elementary school teacher, my dad was a university professor. Grew up pretty much my entire life in Winnipeg. I was born in Edmonton, but spent most of my childhood in Winnipeg.

MS: And there’s a Ralph Krueger connection through your dad?

JB: Yeah, my dad, before he became a university professor, taught at St. John’s Ravenscourt. It was a private school in Winnipeg, and Ralph was a student there. My dad, I think, taught Ralph fifth grade math.

MS: Alright. My son is in fifth grade.

 

Chris Parker: While we’re on family stuff, I saw your sister is going to be involved in an all-female hockey telecast coming up on NBC. Is it this weekend?

JB: Yeah, so my sister was obviously, she was at four Olympics for Team Canada, had a great experience there. And I give her a lot of credit, she’s worked really hard at her public speaking [and] presentation. I also give a lot of credit to some of the corporations in Canada — Royal Bank of Canada, Rona — they’ve continued a sponsorship with her over the years, it’s been great. Last couple of years, she’s been working part-time with the Islanders. She does live in Toronto, has a young family, but has done some games with the Islanders and is now going to get more of an opportunity from a national scale. Very exciting for her.

 

MS: So Jason, last time we talked before the road trip, even maybe before the deadline, it would’ve been before the deadline. You talked about getting after it there with the standings and maybe feeling, I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but feeling like you had a shot (at the playoffs). Maybe that’s different now, I don’t know. What are we looking at here with 16 games left?

JB: Well I think it certainly, let’s just be honest, it’s a disappointing road trip. We played well at times, but we did not get the results. I think going into the trade deadline, we’d won five out of six, I think our group was excited about the acquisitions of both Dominik [Kahun] and Wayne [Simmonds], bringing into our group there. I thought we came out with a lot of energy against Colorado, played a very good game there. Disappointing that we couldn’t find a way to get a goal at the end of that and at least push it to overtime. I think you go through the rest of the games throughout the road trip, there was positive moments, but at the end of the situation, we’re not capitalizing, we’re not getting the results that we want. Nothing’s changed from our perspective; it’s a situation where we have to continue to look at the small picture. Ralph has talked about that throughout the entire year. We still have to continue to find ways in each game to improve as a group, and that starts with trying to find a way to win a game here against Pittsburgh, who had a strong game on Tuesday. We’ve played well against them throughout the year, but to beat a team three times one year is going to be a challenge and we’ll try to do it tonight.

 

MS: What was deadline day like for you? And while I’d expect you to say that there’s always stuff, balls in the air that might have had some chance of happening, was it especially like that? Or was it maybe not? How many ideas were thrown around that might have been really close to happening?

JB: I think there was a lot more discussion this year just because of where our team was at. We had a couple, I guess what you would want to call, bigger things that we talked about for quite a while with different teams. Didn’t materialize. We’ve been on the show before, we’ve talked about trying to add to our forward group and some of these discussions have been about players that we’ve been trying to add for a while here. The time was finally right for the other teams, so we were able to get things accomplished from that standpoint. I think we had also talked about the potential of moving some of our players in other deals. We didn’t want to trade off some of our players of bigger magnitude. Some other players maybe we could’ve gotten mid-round draft choices for guys, but we also felt where we’re at as an organization right now, it’s important to keep this group together and continue to work on here.

 

MS: You were six points out at the time and now, is it 12? I think it’s 12. Is there disappointment, organizationally, that that happened? And is there even any regret that you didn’t do different things on deadline day or can you live with that?

JB: No, I don’t think there was regret just because of where we were at too. We look at, it’s not just how we played that last week against Pittsburgh and Winnipeg; you look at it as much as there was a lot of ups and downs in the month of February, I think from January 1 to the trade deadline we were ninth in the league in regulation wins. We felt that we were making progress there. We were excited about the potential of getting Linus [Ullmark] back into the mix here and where it could go. I think, certainly, we’re disappointed. I think you see that with our players, with their comments and with Ralph, there’s a disappointment that we haven’t been able to get more results in the last four games. Now it’s our challenge to respond. I think that’s one of the things that Ralph has done a very good job with this group, is when things have looked disappointing, when things have been very frustrating, whether it’s at the end of November, whether it’s after the loss on New Year’s Eve, whether it’s the way we started after the All-Star break, we’ve been able to respond. Now it’s going to be against difficult teams here in the next week or two. It’s important for us to respond.

 

CP: How much awareness is there with how March went last year? You guys won two games last March. I think it’d be understandable if the players sort of lost the plot a little bit. Are you talking with Ralph about that? Trying to make sure that players stay on point here, on message?

JB: I think Ralph’s tried to talk about that no matter what the situation is. But, yeah it’s certainly something we’ve talked as an organization and it’s part of the reason why we brought in a player like Wayne Simmonds. He’s been through a March, he’s been through — knows what it has to have success. No matter how that equates to wins this year for us, it’s imperative that our players understand what it takes to win games, especially on the road. Things like that come naturally for Wayne. His experience in those situations is something we wanted to bring into the mix. You also look at a lot of our numbers — I think a big area where we’ve improved compared to last year, the year before, is just puck possession. Depends on what metric you look at, but just holding to the puck in the offensive zone, we’re usually in the top five in the National Hockey League. Possession throughout the entire game, we’re usually in the top 10, but we’re not creating enough chances. We’re not getting to the net enough. We’re carrying enough in the high-danger areas. That’s where a player like Wayne, it’s natural for him to go there. We thought he could complement our group here very well.

 

MS: Are you talking about actual possession, like minutes and seconds? Or are you talking about shot attempts?

JB: Actual possession with the puck.

MS: Okay, so like a time.

JB: Yes.

MS: I don’t know that stat very well. What’s a good game? How many minutes is a good game?

JB: Well, I think more importantly is what we look at a lot is where our rank is throughout the National Hockey League from that standpoint.

MS: So what’s average? 30? You talk about offensive zone?

JB: Yes. Obviously that’s the biggest area. What we’ve tried to work on a lot is making sure we control the puck more. I think that’s one of the things that has helped up from a defensive standpoint, holding onto pucks more. You look at a player like Jack Eichel or Rasmus Dahlin, they certainly do it. It’s part of the reason we brought in a Marcus Johansson, just his smoothness with exits and entries into the offensive zone. What I think has improved a lot, compared to say two years ago where it was more of a chip-and-chase game, we’re holding onto the puck, but we’re not creating enough opportunities off of that. And that’s where you look at it from a situation where our expected goals, our opportunities around the net, we have to do a better job of getting there.

MS: What’s a good number, do you know? What’s a good number for minutes, because I’ve never looked at that. What I want to see, what I’ll look at is expected goals or the corsi and it used to be fenwick and those kind of numbers, the Sabres do not excel in those numbers 5-on-5 or close situations unless your using a certain method that I don’t know.

JB: Expected goals, especially, you’re going to have different people with different philosophies on what exactly goes into that number. We certainly feel we’ve improved a lot from an even strength — playing defense from that standpoint. Obviously what’s hurt us a lot on this past road trip too was just our special teams and our PK. It’s something that we have to drastically improve. But we feel we’ve improved from a defensive standpoint. We’re still trying to continue to find create more opportunities and more offense at even strength, especially.

 

MS: I thought — I’m sorry, one more small point if I could. I thought in the Winnipeg game there was some disagreement, like the analytics, the stats had expected goals under two and Ralph Krueger was talking about all these scoring chances. Scoring chances has always been sort of a subjective statistic.

JB: It’s a subjective statistic and also too expected goals is going to be subjective depending on different people’s models. So that’s what you also have to consider from that standpoint.

MS: I guess, yeah. That’s right.

 

MS: You know it’s sort of been frustrating for me as someone interested in all of that over the years that whether it’s the Sabres, or could be any team, wouldn’t just use an established, objective — not a league statistic per say — but just somebody who’s producing that.

JB: It’s also an evaluation of a player. There’s always going to be opinions a lot, and to make “Hey, this expected goals model is better than anyone else’s,” you’re never going to have everyone believing in the same model.

MS: Right, yeah. Objectivity would be key though to getting anything right. Sort of a cold — I would think if you had numbers that are proprietary and someone else, even the NHL, had different numbers, you’d want to know why, right? You’d want to know what’s the difference.

JB: Without a doubt.

MS: Okay, enough stats.

CP: So, the way forward here. What’s coming? I know the offseason, there’s going to be a lot of salary room, although signing some of your own guys will probably swallow up a good chunk of that. Maybe depending on what you plan to do with Dahlin; this is the first summer you can think of extending him. But as far as where are players coming from that are going to help you get more scoring chances?

JB: We’ve tried to have flexibility each year. No matter what happens, we’re trying to make sure that we’re not impacted on where the salary cap is going to go, that we have that flexibility of salaries coming off our roster. This year, we certainly have set it up where we have the opportunity to re-sign our own players if we want, or add players if need be. We’ve worked hard over the last couple of years of improving our defense. We feel comfortable with the defensemen we have here right now and the defensemen we have coming through the system. From a forward standpoint, we have to add more depth. We’re still a work in progress from that standpoint. We’re obviously extremely ecstatic about [Victor] Olofsson taking the jump this year. I think when he came out of the lineup in January, it certainly impacted our team. You look at Jack and Sam continuing to have strong years. And then also, too, I thought took a huge step forward this year just the camaraderie and the impact [Zemgus] Girgensons, [Johan] Larsson, [Kyle] Okposo have added just from a puck possession, wearing down teams, having the opportunity to play against other teams’ top lines at time, freeing up more of an opportunity for Jack to play against other lines. [What] we have to do, we have to continue to obviously find more scoring options. We’re excited about where Casey Mittelstadt’s at right now. We obviously want to get Tage Thompson healthy. Dylan Cozens is going to be a player that we’ll certainly give an opportunity to add to our lineup here next year. Ans it’s players that we think that can help out our penalty kill in the future, whether it’s a Rasmus Asplund or an [Arttu] Ruotsalainen who was in training camp with us this year. Those are the type of players we’re going to continue to look to add to our mix there. Then we’ll see what happens out from a trade standpoint or from a free agent standpoint.

 

MS: It feels to me like maybe free agency has always kind of been a trap, but it feels more like that to me now. Teams I think are doing a better job of protecting, signing their good players. If a player who’s accomplished something notable in the league is available in free agency, I almost feel like there’s a “buyer beware” tag there. How do you view that market?

JB: I think your intuition is certainly true and I think it’s a situation where you do have to be careful about that come July 1. I also think, let’s be honest, it’s part of — we talked about what Wayne Simmonds can add to our group here right now, it’s also a situation whether he fits in with our mix here. I think Buffalo’s always had a better opportunity to re-sign their own players. Once they get here, once they feel if there’s a mix here, once they get to be a part of the city, there’s always that better opportunity, so that was part of the reason we also brought in Wayne right now.

 

MS: You’re saying, maybe you’ve already said it, you’re saying about Simmonds I think, we thought this when you got him: I think you want him to sort of show either all your players, or the core players, a certain something, whether it’s — it’s not going to be the playoffs probably — but these games coming up or the games already, can you sort of speak to that a little bit? What’s an example, maybe, or a couple examples of the kind of things that you value in him that maybe you think your team needs?

JB: Well I think just you saw it right off the bat in the Colorado game: the physicality that he brings and in the forecheck. I also think, and as we’ve talked about before, he is a player that likes to play in front of the net, it comes natural for him, it’s not something that you have to remind him, he’s going to get there.

MS: How about in the locker room?

JB: In the locker room, he’s a personality, and that’s what we’ve talked to him a lot about is it’s always difficult coming into an environment right off the bat where you may not know a lot of players. But I think you’ve seen it even on the ice; he played World Championships with Jeff Skinner and you see some chemistry with the two of them already out there.

 

MS: At the deadline, I’m now remembering, I think a couple times you talked about him as a strong personality, or vocal, that kind of thing. When you assess the leadership you have here, if you looked at it and said, “There’s not enough vocal, there’s not enough strong personality,” then this logically would be a thing you would do. Is that pretty fair?

JB: I think a lot of our — Kyle Okposo’s been in our league a lot and he’s taken on a big role from our leadership perspective. Marcus Johansson’s come into our group, especially with the European players, been almost a godfather from that standpoint. Jack continues to grow as a captain. But over a course of 82 games, you can’t have the same voices all the time. You have to have more people supporting that, and that’s what we look at from someone [like] Wayne. To our group, what we’ve talked about before here on the show, bringing players in who have had success in the playoffs. Players who understand the grind of 82 games and what it takes to get to the playoffs. That certainly comes natural for Wayne and it’s natural for Wayne to talk to players about that.

 

MS: Do you think guys — Eichel is five years (in the NHL) and Reinhart is too — do you think it’s easier when you miss the playoffs for as long as those guys have and other guys on the team, [Rasmus] Ristolainen would certainly be this, is it easier to give up? Is it easier to think your team, or you can’t do something when you haven’t done it?

JB: No, I think it drives you actually more. You’re more pissed off. You’re more frustrated by that. But I also think from our guys, they’re open to it. They’re looking for communication from Wayne and what does it take? And I think you’ve seen it with our group. It’s not looking back on, say, how we played in October or December; you look back at how we played a week ago, a week-and-a-half ago, it was there, but we have to do that on a more continuous basis. I think that’s just what the preparation — I think our team has done a great job off the ice in what they have to go about to be prepared for the game. But as we go through a game, facing adversity, we have to be stronger from that standpoint. We’ve shown an ability after the games to come back the next game. Within a game, we have to find more opportunity to be stronger and to battle through and at least get a point and see where it goes from a win standpoint.

 

MS: Jason, thanks for coming over as always. Good luck tonight.

JB: Thank you very much guys. You guys have a good night.

Ralph Krueger Interview – Howard and Jeremy (3/5/20)

March 5, 2020

 

Ralph Krueger

Howard and Jeremy (8 a.m.)

https://wgr550.radio.com/media/audio-channel/03-05-sabres-head-coach-ralph-krueger-with-howard-and-jeremy (12:55)

 

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

Ralph Krueger: Good morning, Howard and Jeremy, and good morning Buffalo.

 

HS: Ralph, tough road trip, 0-4, a big blow obviously. What was your message or maybe what is your message to the team as you gather and get ready for tonight’s game against Pittsburgh after the difficult trip?

RK: I definitely agree with you. It was disappointing to come back from that road trip — and from the investment of energy there and the way the guys played in phases — with zero points. But we’ve got Pittsburgh here today. As a game day, number one, it’s always an event here at the KeyBank Center, it’s always wonderful to have a home game, but especially when you’re playing [the] Pittsburgh Penguins. It’s a special day. It’s a good one for us to throw our energy into. We’re not in a happy place right now, but we are in a place where we’re continuing to try to confirm our game. It’s a challenge where we need to make the picture really small here, concentrate on the game and a good performance here for our home crowd.

 

HS: The Eichel line is pointless now in five games. Is there anything in particular that you’re seeing that you could kind of, maybe pinpoint an issue as to why they have not been able to produce any points?

RK: It’s mathematics sometimes. When we look at the two games that were critical at the beginning of the trip in Colorado and against Las Vegas, the line had, combined, 15 shots on net and no goals, which mathematically made no sense. It’s just keeping that kind of persistence of looking for shots, continuing to look for opportunity, and the mathematics should pay off for them. They’re of course frustrated. Our power play was frustrated, as you well know we went 0-for- on the trip and it’s something that is our offensive motor and they’re a major part of that. They play the major minutes on the power play. So we, of course, have been having conversations about solutions, getting more simplicity, maybe, in the attack, [looking] for more net presence and all the habits that lead to goals. It’s hard work when things aren’t going in the easy way, and that’s what we need to do is work hard to get those opportunities here in [March]. 

 

HS: You broke up [Jack] Eichel and [Sam] Reinhart the other night in Winnipeg; was that a in-game try and get a spark thing or is that something you would continue tonight with different line combinations?

RK: You know what guys, it’s something that in a game we have been doing off and on during the season, whether it’s that change or somebody on the left side and [Victor] Olofsson would go on another line. It’s just when a team is down zero-three, making sure we never quit, we never give up and we try to fight our way back in. Sometimes line changes work, and it seemed to give a little bit of boost of energy. That duo especially, Reinhart and Eichel, is one that’s been so strong for us all season long. We’re not going to give up on it that quickly. But going through the games as we move on, we might look for some different combinations and other looks. If we need offense, some changes fresh up the guys sometimes and bring some new energy. So we’ll see how that goes tonight. Beginning, we’ll be leaving our lines alone. 

 

HS: Ralph, there’s some speculation that Jack is playing through some kind of an injury. I don’t know if that does or does not tie into his five-game point drought at this point. Any talk about — if he’s playing through some kind of hurts and where the season’s gone, where the standings are — of shutting Jack down?

RK: It’s certainly not an injury that has any risk [by] putting him in the lineup, or we would be dealing with it differently. We have multiple players with aches and pains at this time of year, that’s the way hockey is. It’s not an injury that we find is jeopardizing his game that much, but it’s there. He’s showing captain leadership by fighting through it. Our medical team is working hard with him, and we hope in the next few days that it continues to get better, which it is actually doing even though he’s playing. But again, he’s not the only one; I have to say there are some ice bags in the room, but that’s the nature of the game and we need to learn to fight through that as a group and we are right now.

 

HS: The fact that he’s been taking faceoffs again, is that the indication that he’s getting better?

RK: Yeah, for sure guys. We wouldn’t be having him in the draws if it was a risk. It’s always the question you ask, “Can it get a lot worse if a player plays?” We avoid those situations wherever possible and that isn’t the case, so right now we’ve got a healthy lineup and we need to show that power in the game today against Pittsburgh.

 

HS: You were talking about the power play, and it had a difficult road trip, but I want to ask you about penalty killing because it’s had its struggles this season. As the coaches break down that — I mean it could be as simple as you can talk to us about the goaltender who has to make the save — but as the coaches break down what you see on tape from the penalty-killing unit, are there any particular issues that you could bring up or discuss in terms of trying to explain why that’s been a problem area?

RK: What’s been strange, guys, is at home we’ve been mid-table in our PK and it’s on the road that we’re at the very bottom. It’s a strange phenomenon; I’ve never seen it quite like that because generally our team and our structure and the way we perform, the principles, we apply the same at home as on the road. Our power play’s running pretty well equal road and home, so it’s a strange one. All you can do in those situations is work hard on the fundamentals. That’s the only thing we know how to do as a coaching staff, to continue to drive those in. We have made some personnel changes. You will have seen that [Kyle] Okposo was doing some penalty killing on the road here the last few games. We really liked what we saw in him; his game’s been such a team game right through the season here and his work without the puck’s been strong. Using different personnel is something we are doing also on defense, even seeing Rasmus Dahlin get some penalty-kill minutes. He actually hit 26 minutes the other night just on pure performance. There’s all kinds of different approaches. There’s no clean, easy fix in this league, it is so competitive, and it is so strong and especially the power plays of every team have a lot of skill in them. We just need to continue to work hard on the areas we’re not happy with, and it’s certainly one. Keep the PK going the way it is at home. It’s been really strong at home lately and it needs to be strong tonight for sure to give us a chance. Pittsburgh has one of the best in the league.

 

HS: Since we last talked to you you’ve added a couple of players. Want to ask you so far about [Wayne] Simmonds and [Dominik] Kahun. With Wayne Simmonds, what have you seen so far from him? What do you think he brings to your team?

RK: Well both of them bring personality that is unique. Wayne Simmonds for sure has a reputation of being a tough player who brings automatic respect because he is a very good teammate and an excellent human being. He’s brought another strong voice into our room. He is a player who really is there for his teammates all the time, pushing guys in the right direction, but also with an experience that people will listen to him. And the game he brings, he looks for the net front, he looks for the blue paint, he looks for the confrontation that is needed there. It’s a great example for us. Dominik Kahun is a play that I know from his European past. He’s, at 23, already won multiple championships over there, has been to World Championships, won a silver medal at the Olympics. Now he’s learning how to play the NHL game. That is something. He’s in his second season, he’s definitely got the skill, he’s got the smarts. He was a centerman his whole life before, so he understands the game without the puck. He’s been a spark plug kind of player for us here and we look forward to seeing him grow into our group. The important thing is when we add a player, he brings something fresh, something different, something new, another tool that is exciting. And both of them do that. It’s been a good move for the organization, and we look forward to seeing him grow here.

 

HS: Ralph, I’m curious, when players join an organization this late in the season, and maybe it’s different because one guy is a veteran and one guy is a younger player, how do you get them acclimated to your system, your philosophy, where they’re supposed to be on the ice? When they didn’t go through training camp, they weren’t here for most of the season, how do you get them up to speed and is it easier with a guy like Simmonds than Kahun because he’s been around the league so long?

RK: They’re both very smart players. Donnie Granato will take the forwards if they come in, Steve Smith will take the D and of course Mike Bales working with goalies. They will do the technical specific coaching through video. We don’t overload them. We stay close to new players; we make sure they understand. I’ll work with the general 5-on-5 structure, the way they need to fit in to our team game with and without the puck. There are just nuances and little tweaks. The NHL as a whole has a lot of copy-paste going on. There are general concepts that are similar in all the teams, and it’s just the way we put the package together is unique, certain nuances within that. They’ve done really well at stepping in, and it’s not ever going to be perfect as the game of hockey’s never a perfect game, but their hunger to try and get those things right has been big. Their game intelligence, their hockey IQs have been high. It is always a tough process for a player at this time of year, but both of them have done a really good job of stepping in and doing their best to execute within our team game, which is what we need to do to be the best version of the Buffalo Sabres that we can be.

 

HS: Ralph, final thing for you this morning, what is update on Linus Ullmark?

RK: He’s back in the group, he’s looking at NHL shots here. We’re hoping to bring him in as a backup not today, but within the next couple of games. It’s a process that you need to just take one day at a time. He’s only been (back) with us a couple of days now and it’s just good to have him back. As always, our rehab team sends players back to us in game-ready shape. Hoping to have him back in the lineup here in the next few games. He’ll be a good addition back into our group.

 

HS: I know that the trip wasn’t going well, but you did get a chance to go back to Winnipeg. Did you get caught up with some people? What’d you do when you were back in Winnipeg?

RK: Thanks for asking. It is my hometown. I had 12 family members of different types, in-laws and so on, at the game in Winnipeg, so that was a special event. My 89-year-old mother-in-law was at her first Winnipeg Jets game ever and very proud of being there. Those are the human sides of the game that are a beautiful thing to be a part of. We would’ve preferred to have had the win. It was good to be back in Winnipeg. I’m at home in Buffalo right now. It’s a great place to be at home. I know our fans are not pleased with the road trip, and they shouldn’t be. We all can’t be, but they should be pleased with the effort the players gave and the fight that’s in this group right now. We’re hoping to reward our fans with a real good fight here tonight against Pittsburgh.

 

HS: Well, Ralph, thanks for the time on the show, as always. We appreciate you coming on with us. Good luck tonight and we’ll look forward to talking to you again next week.

RK: Thank you Jeremy and Howard for the good conversation. Thank you to the support we’re feeling every day from the Sabres community and we will work hard to earn that support in a positive way. So thanks guys.

Game Preview: 3/5/20 vs. Pittsburgh

GAME-DAY RESOURCES

Game Notes NHL Stats Press Clips

LAST GAME
Tuesday, March 3
Buffalo 1 at Winnipeg 3
Goals: Ristolainen
Goalie: Hutton (32 saves/35 shots)
PP: 0/2; PK: 2/3; Shots: Winnipeg 35 – Buffalo 26

CURRENT INJURIES – (Man Games Lost: 319)
Player (injury, first game missed) – total games missed
Matt Hunwick (neck, Oct. 3; injured reserve) – 66 games
Vladimir Sobotka (knee, Nov. 9; injured reserve) – 50 games
Tage Thompson (shoulder, Nov. 19; injured reserve) – 46 games
Linus Ullmark (lower body, Jan. 30; injured reserve) – 16 games

TRANSACTIONS IN PAST 7 DAYS
N/A

UPCOMING GAMES
Saturday, March 7: Buffalo at Philadelphia, 7 p.m.
Monday, March 9: Washington at Buffalo, 7 p.m.
Thursday, March 12: Buffalo at Montreal, 7 p.m.
Friday, March 13: Boston at Buffalo, 7 p.m.
Sunday, March 15: Carolina at Buffalo, 5 p.m.

TONIGHT’S GAME
PENGUINS at SABRES

  • This is the third and final meeting between the Sabres and Penguins this season.
  • Last meeting: Buffalo defeated Pittsburgh 5-2 in Pittsburgh on Feb. 22.
  • The Sabres are 4-5-1 in their last 10 games vs. the Penguins; 2-8-0 at home.
  • This is the 194th game all-time between Buffalo and Pittsburgh; Buffalo has a 69-81-43 series record.
  • The Sabres are 42-31-22 at home against the Penguins all-time.

THIS DATE IN SABRES HISTORY

  • The Sabres are 9-11-2 all-time on March 5.
  • March 5, 2010: Thomas Vanek records his 300th career NHL point with a goal vs. Philadelphia.
  • March 5, 2017: Jack Eichel scores a goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins, becoming the second player in NHL history to record a point against 29 different opponents in his first two seasons in the league.

THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW

  • The Sabres are 4-1-0 against the Penguins since the beginning of last season.
  • With a win tonight, Buffalo would have three straight wins against Pittsburgh for the first time since the team won five consecutive meetings from Oct. 10, 2005 to Nov. 17, 2006.
    • It would be the Sabres’ first season series sweep against the Penguins since the 2005-06 season.
  • The Sabres are 7-4-3 against the Metropolitan Division this season with wins in each of their last four games against the division. Buffalo has gone 4-1-1 at home against Metropolitan Division opponents this season.
  • If he dresses tonight, Colin Miller will appear in his 300th NHL game.

HOT AGAINST PITTSBURGH

  • Jack Eichel has totaled nine points (6+3) in nine games against the Penguins since the beginning of the 2016-17 season.
  • Carter Hutton is 5-1-0 with two shutouts and a .940 save percentage in his eight career appearances against Pittsburgh.
  • Sam Reinhart has recorded 10 points (3+7) in his last 10 games against the Penguins.
  • Marcus Johansson has recorded four points (1+3) in his last four games against the Penguins
  • Colin Miller has posted three assists in his last three meetings with Pittsburgh.
  • Rasmus Dahlin has a point in both of this season’s matchups with the Penguins (1+1).

THE LOG LINE

  • According to NaturalStatTrick.com, the line of Zemgus Girgensons, Johan Larsson and Kyle Okposo has outscored opponents 6-1, outshot them 44-34 and out-attempted them 70-60 when on the ice together in Buffalo’s last seven games games despite having an offensive zone start percentage of just 35.0 percent.
  • Girgensons’ 19 points through 66 games are his highest total since his career-best 30 points in 2014-15. He needs three more goals to tie his career high of 15 set in 2014-15.
  • With an assist on Tuesday at Winnipeg, Larsson surpassed his previous career high with his 18th point in his 59th game of the season. All 18 points have come at even-strength, topping his previous career high of 15 in 2017-18.
  • Larsson is now four goals and one assist from tying his career highs in those categories.
  • Okposo has recorded seven points (4+3) in Buffalo’s last eight games.

TEEN TITAN

  • Rasmus Dahlin has totaled 81 points (13+68) through his first 138 NHL games, including 37 points (4+33) in 56 games this season.
  • With his assist on Feb. 18 at Ottawa, Dahlin passed Ray Bourque (79) for the second-most points recorded by an NHL defenseman before his 20th birthday. He now trails only Phil Housley (132) for the most points ever recorded by a teenage defenseman.
  • Dahlin’s .59 points per game in his career rank as the 17th-highest rate among active NHL defensemen with at least 10 career games played. His .66 points per game so far this season represent the best single-season scoring rate by a Sabres defenseman since Brian Campbell (.68) in 2007-08.

SETTING THE PACE

  • Jack Eichel is currently on pace to finish the season with 44 goals and 96 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 scored his 20th goal of the season in his 55th game on Feb. 7 at NY Rangers, surpassing the 2015-16 season as his previous quickest season to 20 goals (69 games). Reinhart is currently on pace to set a new career high in goals (27).
  • Victor Olofsson, who has missed 15 games due to injury this season, is on pace to score 25 goals. If he maintains his current pace, his output will tie Thomas Vanek (25) for sixth-most among all rookies in franchise history. It would be the most goals scored by a Sabres rookie since Donald Audette scored 31 in 1991-92.

JACK ATTACK

  • With an assist on Feb. 11 vs. Detroit, Jack Eichel became the 14th player ever to record 70 points in consecutive seasons at least once as a member of the Sabres.
    • He needs three points to become just the ninth player in franchise history to record 80 points in back-to-back seasons at least once. He would join Danny Gare, Dale Hawerchuk, Pat LaFontaine, Rick Martin, Alexander Mogilny, Gilbert Perreault, Rene Robert and Pierre Turgeon.
  • With his 40th assist on Feb. 13 vs. Columbus, Eichel became the first Sabres player to record 30 goals and 40 assists in a season since Jason Pominville (30+43) in 2011-12. He became the 16th different player in franchise history to accomplish this feat at least once.

POINTS IN BUNCHES

  • Jack Eichel has recorded 20 multi-point games this season, tying as the 11th-most in the NHL entering play Wednesday. The Sabres are 15-3-2 (.800) in those games.
  • Eichel’s seven multi-goal games tied for fifth-most in the league and his 11 multi-assist games tied for 11th-most.
  • Sam Reinhart ranks second on the Sabres with 13 multi-point games this season. The team is 10-2-1 this season (.808) and 41-7-8 (.804) in his career when he records at least two points.

SABRES AMONG LEAGUE-LEADERS (Sabres’ league rankings before 3/4 games)

  • Eichel: 3 OTG (T-2nd), 9 GWG (T-3rd), 35 G (T-6th), 26 PPP (T-7th), 77 PTS (T-10th), 24 EVG (T-10th)
  • Olofsson: 11 PPG (T-8th)
  • Ristolainen: 195 hits (9th)

SABRES REAL-TIME STATS LEADERS
Hits: Ristolainen (195), Girgensons (106), McCabe (85)
Blocked Shots: McCabe (86), Ristolainen (81), Jokiharju (58)
Shots: Eichel (217), Skinner (169), Reinhart (135)

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, 23/32a
31-40: 4-5-1 (9), 24/32, 4/23, 23/30
41-50: 5-5-0 (10), 30/32, 7/29, 21/29
51-60: 5-4-1 (11), 28/33, 5/23, 13/17
61-70: 2-4-0 (4), 14/18, 2/13, 8/11

OVERTIME RESULTS (6-6; 126-134 all-time)
Oct. 7 at CBJ: L, 4-3 (Texier, 2:08)
Oct. 9 vs. MTL: W, 5-4 (Johansson, 1:30)
Oct. 22 vs. SJS: W, 4-3 (Eichel, 3:13)
Nov. 14 vs. CAR: L, 5-4 (Hamilton, 2:28)
Nov. 27 vs. CGY: L, 3-2 (Lindholm, 1:17)
Nov. 30 at TOR: L, 2-1 (Tavares, 1:45)
Dec. 7 at VAN: L, 6-5 (Miller, 3:21)
Dec. 8 at EDM: W, 3-2 (Miller, 1:13)
Dec. 14 at NYI: L, 3-2 (Beauvillier, 3:04)
Jan. 2 vs. EDM: W, 3-2 (Eichel, 1:09)
Feb. 1 vs. CBJ: W, 2-1 (Eichel, 0:36)
Feb. 13 vs. CBJ: W, 4-3 (Olofsson, 2:44)

SHOOTOUT RESULTS (1-2; 76-71 all-time)
Oct. 11 vs. FLA: W, 3-2 (GDG-Eichel)
Oct. 28 vs. ARI: L, 3-2 (GDG-Schmaltz)
Feb. 6 vs. DET: L, 4-3 (GDG-Larkin)

MILESTONES APPROACHING (Player … Needs … Milestone)
Games Played
Colin Miller … 1 game … 300 career games played
Kyle Okposo … 3 games … 800 career games played
Sam Reinhart … 3 games … 400 career games played
Rasmus Ristolainen … 10 games … 500 career games played
Goals
Kyle Okposo … 4 goals … 200 career goals
Points
Wayne Simmonds … 1 point … 500 career points
Johan Larsson … 3 points … 100 career points
Wins
Carter Hutton … 7 wins … 100 career wins

RECENT MILESTONES
Jimmy Vesey … 300th NHL game … Feb. 28 at VGK