The Sabres look for more points at home against Florida

Linus Ullmark gets the call in net on Friday

Paul Hamilton
October 11, 2019 - 11:33 am

Photo: Kevin Hoffman - USA TODAY Sports

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Buffalo, NY (WGR 550) - The Sabres have not had good luck against Florida. In the last 10 games, Buffalo is 2-7-1, but Marcus Johansson couldn’t care less. He said he’s not at all interested in the past, he’s only interested in today.

The Sabres are 3-0-1, which is their best start since 2009-10.

Both Jack Eichel and Rasmus Dahlin have seven points in the first four games. That has them tied for ninth in league scoring.

Buffalo’s power play is second in the NHL at 53.3%, but the penalty killing is 21st at 69.2%. Buffalo has killed 9-of-13 penalties. Zemgus Girgensons says there are ways to improve that, “I definitely feel it’s not where it needs to be. I think we’ve been good in zone, but have struggled with the clear and it’s something where the guys have to relax a bit and when you get the puck on the stick, you have to make sure it goes all the way down.”

Ralph Krueger knows they’ve struggled a little on the kill, but he thinks there’s been some luck involved too, “I think we’ve had some goals that aren’t typical PK, we’ve had the double, triple deflection, but if you look at the structure there and the way that we’re executing, those numbers will follow, I’m confident and if we stick to the way we need to play, we’ll be fine.”

The Sabres have a power play with five lethal guys on it. Krueger thinks power plays are now different, “Power plays with the speed and the way they’re executing. It’s just getting more and more lethal and for the penalty kills it’s getting harder to have those numbers up to where you’d like to have them.”

Florida’s power has worked at 30.8%.

As much as the Girgensons-Larsson-Okposo line has spent most of their shifts in the offensive zone, the Vesey-Mittelstadt-Rodrigues line has spent most of their shifts in the defensive zone. It actually got worse on Wednesday with Conor Sheary out injured and Evan Rodrigues in. Krueger said, “It’s offensive zone time, yes there’s a need to be stable defensively and I believe that’s been strong, they’ve had very few chances against, but now it’s building some O-zone time and some cycling and getting that skillset going. We’d like to see them play down below the hash marks a lot more.”

Henri Jokiharju has been trusted by the coaching staff in many defensive situations. He plays on the penalty kill and averages over 17 minutes per-game. The kid is only 20-years-old and has played 42 career NHL games. Krueger said he doesn’t pay attention to age, “It’s funny, only when you start those conversations with me do I even think about their age. The way I’ve always been as a coach whether you’re 35 or 19, I treat you exactly the same and expect the same habits from you, so for younger players that can sometimes put pressure on them, but I’ve never, ever seen him as a 20-year-old, I’ve just seen him as a player that needs to play the same way and he’s done a really good job of doing that.”

Linus Ullmark will get his second start of the season in goal. In his first game, he stood on his head making 40 saves in a 4-3 overtime loss at Columbus.

With a 1-2-0 record, the Panthers have already annoyed their new coach Joel Quenneville. He bag skated them for over an hour this week, which really isn’t done much in the NHL these days.

In three games, their prized free agent goalie Sergei Bobrovsky has allowed 11 goals, giving him a 4.78 goals-against and .859 save percentage.

On the other side of the equation, Mike Hoffman has had a red-hot start, scoring four goals and six points in three games.

Former Sabres defenseman Mark Pysyk has fallen out of favor in Florida. He’s only played one game and will likely be a healthy scratch again Friday.

Join the Bulldog for the pre-game show at 6:00 live from (716) Food and Sport when he’ll be joined by Krueger, Girgensons and Colin Miller.

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