Sabres look to go 3-0 in Columbus

Kyle Okposo thinks hard work has helped him to a good start

Paul Hamilton
October 07, 2019 - 1:27 pm

Photo: Timothy T. Ludwig - USA TODAY Sports

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(WGR 550) - The Sabres are only making one change to their lineup tonight. Ralph Krueger told reporters that Linus Ullmark will gets his first start of the season in goal. The lines and defense are the same with Evan Rodrigues and John Gilmour as the healthy scratches.

In their first two games, many players have played very well, including the line of Zemgus Girgensons, Johan Larsson and Kyle Okposo. The trio has done a good job of helping to shutdown the opponent, as well as create some chances at the other end. Okposo said, “We seem to be able to read off each other pretty well and have some chemistry.”

Okposo has been through a lot since signing in Buffalo. He said he's been able to block out the noise the be better, “I go out there to be the best player I can be. There’s no external pressure that’s entering into my brain. It doesn’t matter if I play five minutes or 20 minutes, I’m going to go out there and be the best I can in that shift.”    

Okposo has had a good start to the season after a lot of hard work in the offseason, but he is by no means satisfied, “I’m starting to see it, but I want more. I want to be better. I mean, we’re creating chances and that’s the name of the game. So yes, I put a lot of work into the summer, so it’s definitely a good start to the year for myself, the team and our line and I need to look at some things to continue to grow.”

Ralph Krueger had dinner with Okposo before training camp and said he’s embraced his role every since, “From Day 1, in every practice since the 13th of September, he has been attempting to do exactly what we’re asking in every drill understanding that what we need from him is possibly different from the past, but his attitude through this is what’s carrying him and Kyle is a tool we can use for adjustments too.”

Okposo has been one of the alternate captains for a few years here, but Ralph Krueger gave the "A"s to Marcus Johansson and Jake McCabe. Okposo is not upset about it at all, “It’s alright. I think it’s a tremendous opportunity for Jake and Marcus to step up. Jake’s the kind of guy that does everything right and he’s put his dues in and is getting more vocal.

“I’ve been in the league, I mean this is my 12th full year I think, and worn a letter for a lot of them, but that doesn’t change who I am as a person if I have it or I don’t.”

I remember Jason Pominville telling me when he came back from Minnesota that he didn’t need a letter to be a leader on the team. Okposo totally agrees with that, “You’re not going to change who you are because you have one or you don’t and I think that’s a big lesson for guys.”

You’d be hard pressed to go back in Sabres history and find two better games played to start the season. Okposo said the confidence began before they even dropped the puck in Pittsburgh, “Right now we have a really good buy in into our system, and I don’t remember a time in my career where we’ve gone into Pittsburgh and played that well and just given them nothing. That was a bit of an eye opener for me just to go into that building against a tough team when you’ve got [Evgeni Malkin] and [Sidney Crosby] at the helm and really dominate the game and it was a ton of fun.”

Krueger has given that line a defined role, but he thinks they’ve exceeded it, “If you look at what they’ve been doing here in the first two games they lead the way in really playing simple, hard forechecking, they’re getting the pucks in deep, they’re getting on it, they’re having some strong offensive shifts, Saturday they were 5-to-1 in scoring chances.”

After two games, Rasmus Dahlin leads the Sabres in scoring with four points. Jack Eichel, Victor Olofsson and Sam Reinhart all have three.

Columbus has lost to Toronto and Pittsburgh in their two games. so Krueger knows they will see the Blue Jackets' best, “We’re expecting strong resistance in Columbus and they will come hard in that game and fight for their first win and we need to be a smart team and stick to our plan and make it about us.”

The Blue Jackets will be without the injured Josh Anderson. They’re already a different team losing Artemi Panarin, Sergei Bobrovsky, Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel for free agency.

Columbus has been outscored 11-3 in their two games. Monday's starting goalie Joonas Korpisalo is 0-1-0 with a 4.00 goals-against and .862 save percentage. Riley Nash has assisted on two of the three Blue Jackets goals.

Join Schopp and the Bulldog for the pre-game starting at 6:00 when they’ll be joined by Ralph Krueger, Kyle Okposo and Sam Reinhart.

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