Sabres' Montour and Vesey return against the Islanders

Buffalo faces an Islanders team that was won eight straight games

Paul Hamilton
November 02, 2019 - 12:50 pm

Photo: Kevin Hoffman - USA TODAY Sports


Buffalo, NY (WGR 550) - Ralph Krueger announced that Jimmy Vesey will return to the lineup on Saturday, and Brandon Montour will play his first game of the season. Vesey will go in for Evan Rodrigues and Montour replaces John Gilmour.

On Friday, Victor Olofsson was named the NHL's Rookie of the Month for October. Olofsson had a fast start to his NHL career, scoring eight goals in his first 13 career games. He, of course, is happy to be honored, “It’s fun for sure, it shows that I did something good in the last month.”

Even though Olofsson hasn’t scored in his last seven games, he still has confidence in his ability. Olofsson believes in himself, but he’s not cocky about it, “I’ve never been that guy that’s really cocky or talks much. I still believe you can have a lot of confidence in your abilities. I mean, sometimes it can be a fine line, but I feel confident for sure.”

With only two points in those seven games, you might think the rookie is losing confidence. He said, “Not really. If I feel like I’m playing well, I know it’s going to come eventually, so I’ve been in this situation many times before in my career, so I’m not frustrated at all. If I keep working hard and playing my game, I know it’s going to come.”

All of Olofsson’s goals have come on the power play. Since Olofsson’s last goal, the power play is 4-for-21 or 19%. Overall, Buffalo is ranked third in the NHL at 28.6%. Olofsson said teams are not shading towards him to take him away, “Sometimes it can be a little bit like that, but I feel that we have a good enough power play that we can find different solutions out there and maybe we just need to keep it a little more simple that we’ve been doing these last couple of games and get some dirty goals.”

Olofsson is still looking for his first career 5-on-5 goal. The coaches are working with him on that and he said, “I need to be more around the net and get some rebounds and some tips and get some greasy goals.”

Henri Jokiharju scored his first NHL goal in Washington. He said he would’ve liked it better had it been in a win, “Of course it felt good to get that goal, but obviously the result wasn’t that nice for our team, so it didn’t feel good after the game.”

Carter Hutton gets the call in goal for Buffalo. Hutton is coming off a 42-save shootout loss to Arizona on Monday. Hutton is eighth in league save percentage at .926, and also eighth with a 2.21 goals-against average.

Buffalo has lost three of four games and are on a two-game losing streak for the first time all season.

In the first 10 games, the Sabres scored less than three goals once. In the last four, they’ve scored just seven goals and haven’t gotten to three in any of the games.

Olofsson isn’t the only one struggling. Jack Eichel, Jeff Skinner and Sam Reinhart have one goal in four games, Marcus Johansson and Casey Mittelstadt haven’t scored in five games, and Conor Sheary hasn’t lit the lamp in six.

Kyle Okposo hasn’t scored in 12 games, Rasmus Dahlin has gone 13 games without a goal, while Jimmy Vesey and Evan Rodrigues are still searching for their first goal for the season.

By the end of Friday’s game in Washington, Eichel had Skinner on his left wing. Krueger didn’t want to reveal his lines until warmup. Eichel’s line has been on the ice for a lot of goals lately. He and Reinhart were minus-3 in Washington and is minus-5 in their last four games.

The Islanders have been red-hot with eight straight wins. New York’s last loss came Oct. 11 in Carolina.

I was told that the Islanders wouldn’t be able to maintain their save percentage from last year, which means they wouldn’t be as good. Last season, Thomas Greiss had a save percentage of .927, and this season he’s at .933. Greiss is 5-1-0 with a 2.15 goals-against average. He played Friday, so Semyon Varlamov will likely go for the Islanders. Varlamov is 4-2-0 with a 2.53 goals-against average and .918 save percentage.

Ever since Barry Trotz showed up, the Islanders spread their scoring throughout. Mathew Barzal and Josh Bailey lead the way with 11 points in 12 games, while Brock Nelson has 10.

Barzal does have six goals and four assists for 10 points in his last eight games. Derick Brassard has goals in four straight games, and Anders Lee has goals in three of his last four games.

Join Brian Koziol for the pre-game show at 6:00 when he’ll be joined by Krueger, Olofsson and Jokiharju.  

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