Botterill: We have forwards that can produce more

The Sabres general manager joined Schopp and the Bulldog on Thursday ahead of Buffalo's matchup with the Hurricanes

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November 14, 2019 - 6:22 pm

Photo: Timothy T. Ludwig - USA TODAY Sports

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After a decent start to the 2019-20 season, the Buffalo Sabres have hit a skid with five straight losses, as well as six losses in the last seven games.

As it stands before Thursday night's matchup with the Carolina Hurricanes at KeyBank Center, the Sabres currently sit at 9-6-2 through 17 games with 20 points, which is three points out of a top-three spot in the Atlantic Division.

Despite the recent struggles, the Sabres' blue line is getting healthier as Marco Scandella is expected to return for Thursday's game, while Zach Bogosian returned to practice on Wednesday following offseason hip surgery.

Sabres general manager Jason Botterill joined Mike Schopp and the Bulldog on Thursday at (716) Food and Sport to speak on the depth on the blue line, the team's recent struggles, the lack of secondary scoring and more.

Here's some of what he had to say:

 

Botterill on the play of Rasmus Dahlin:

"Rasmus has such calmness. Nothing seems to really bother him. He handles it extremely well... When our coaches are talking to Ramsus Dahlin right now. No matter how many points you say he gets on the power play, he still wants the opportunity to play against other teams' top players. he still wants to work on his defensive game...

"Running the power play as a 19-year-old and making the right decisions out there is a difficult job, and he makes it look so easy. He's worked extremely hard on his game in the offseason, he's worked on his strength, and he wants to take on the opportunity to play against other teams' top lines. I still think that's another step in his development there. He has to continue to work to earn those opportunities, and not only just be in them, but excel in those situations."

 

Botterill on the defensive group getting healthier:

"We're having options now. Just the development of [Henri] Jokiharju has given us more opportunities. He's not down in Rochester right now, he's up with our team. That gives us more opportunity and more options that our coaching staff can utilize during the game. It's great that Scandella can come back. Especially with Henri having some good chemistry before [Scandella] got hurt there. It's great to have Montour finally back in the mix. There's no waiting and having to watch his minutes. We can play him at full strength here. It's great to see Zach Bogosian. If you saw some of the quotes, he was pretty emotional yesterday. It's been a long road for him to get back, and it was a great step in his development and his road back to actually playing. It's still going to take him some time until he's 100% game ready."

 

Botterill on the team's lack of secondary scoring:

"I think we have the personnel to [score more]. I think they've proven at the start of the year to be able to create opportunities. I think a big step was how our top line played over in Sweden. They're 5-on-5 scoring, they hadn't been producing a lot, and they're really stepped up from that standpoint. For Victor Olofsson, I don't know if the weekend could've gone any better other than getting a couple of wins. Him creating opportunities out there, capitalizing on some situations out there. I thought it was great from that standpoint. Do we think that there are still players, some of our forwards that can still produce more? Yeah. I think that's where Ralph [Krueger] has changed up the lines a bit to try and find a mix that can work. But overall, I've liked our game in transition. I've certainly liked how our power play has moved the puck around, and the process that it's at, and also the numbers that it's producing. I think whenever the power play can continue to produce, it allows our guys to have that much more confidence at even strength."

 

Botterill on the possibility of playing Jeff Skinner back on the top line:

"That's where Ralph has a great feel, and what my job is, and what our job is, it to try and give him as many options as possible. I think we're trying to do that from a defensive standpoint, and we're trying to create more opportunities to figure out the lines with the forward group. What I've loved is that earlier in the season, I thought Skinner and [Marcus] Johansson had really good chemistry. They cooled off a little bit, but there's still that dialogue going on, and Ralph is trying to find what the mix is going to be from our lines. Sometimes he does, especially at the end of the periods, throw Jeff up there with Jack [Eichel] and Sam [Reinhart]. We certainly understand we're trying to find chemistry there, but you're trying to find not just the one line, you're trying to [find a balance]."

 

Botterill on the decision to recall Curtis Lazar over Tage Thompson:

"[Lazar] did an excellent job in training camp coming in here. He was a player that maybe Ralph and our coaching staff didn't know that well, but was impressed with his ability to get to the net, his ability to finish checks, did a nice job with the [penalty kill] too... He's going to be in the lineup tonight, and we're excited to hopefully get a little energy to our group."

"[Thompson] is doing well. It's exciting for us.You look at the offensive opportunities that he's creating down there, and he's certainly creating a lot of chances, That's great to see... [He] understands what the process is and working on staying in front of the net, some of the details with protecting the pucks in the offensive zone, being stronger along the [defensive zone] walls, and understanding what he has to do to get to the National Hockey League and not being comfortable and enjoying life too much in the American Hockey League, but understanding what he has to do... We are excited about him coming up to our group here eventually, and we think his size and his shot are elements that can give us a different look."

 

You can listen to the entire interview below:

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