On Monday night, the Buffalo Sabres lost a hard-fought game, 4-3, to the Montreal Canadiens in a shootout. Although making the postseason seems like tough sledding, the Sabres are trying, vying for their third straight win against the Habs.
At least the Sabres gained a point, and should they win five of their last nine games, they’ll still reach the 40-win milestone for the first time since 2010-2011, which was also the last time they made the playoffs.
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Buffalo is now six points out of the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. They haven’t given up, but the road is getting bumpier.
Item One: Eric Comrie Has Second Strong Game in a Row
Eric Comrie started in goal for the Sabres. Against the New York Islanders on Saturday, the 27-year-old had a huge bounce-back game, earning a shutout with 26 saves to help the Sabres to a 2-0 victory.
Comrie registered another solid performance against the Canadiens, stopping 38 of 41 shots before allowing the extra goal during the shootout. He has now started back-to-back games after missing six with a lower-body injury.
These last two games follow a horrible outing on March 9 when Comrie gave up 10 goals on 49 shots against the Dallas Stars. This season, he has a 9-9-1 record, with a 3.67 goals-against average and a .886 save percentage in 20 appearances.
Item Two: JJ Peterka Continues His Point-a-Game Pace
John-Jason Peterka scored a power-play goal against the Canadiens, tying the game at 2-2 in the second period. He beat goaltender Jake Allen from a sharp angle.
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The 21-year-old German rookie right-winger has been playing well lately, with nine points (two goals and seven assists) in his last nine games. Peterka has a total of 10 goals and 30 points in 68 games this season.
Item Three: Tage Thompson Missed His First Game of the Season
Although the Sabres’ Tage Thompson was listed as day-to-day with an upper-body injury, he played through it on Saturday night, but he missed Monday’s game – his first of the season. Lukas Rousek made his NHL debut in place of Thompson.
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The 25-year-old Thompson is having a breakout season with 44 goals and 45 assists (for 89 points) through 72 games. However, he’s scored only two goals in his last six, and it would be nice to see him return to his quest for 50 goals.
Item Four: The Sabres Have Recalled Lukas Rousek
Before Monday’s game, the Sabres recalled Lukas Rousek from the American Hockey League’s (AHL) Rochester Americans. It was a solid NHL debut for the former sixth-round draft pick.
Rousek had 15 goals and 34 assists (for 49 points) in 62 games for the Americans this season. His debut against the Canadiens was equally impressive. His first NHL goal tied the game at 1-1, and he later added an assist on Riley Stillman’s third-period goal.
His performance will likely earn him more chances with the Sabres for the rest of the season.
Item Five: Riley Stillman Scored His First Goal of the Season
Riley Stillman, who came to the Sabres from the Vancouver Canucks at the trade deadline in exchange for forward Josh Bloom, scored his first goal of the season on Monday. It was his only shot of the game, and he beat Allen top-shelf. The goal gave the Sabres a temporary 3-2 lead in the second period.
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Stillman has mostly played on Buffalo’s third defensive pairing since joining the team.
Item Six: Vinnie Hinostroza Returned to the Sabres But Didn’t Play
Vinnie Hinostroza returned to the Sabres before Monday’s game after being away from the team for personal reasons. Hinostroza’s been a healthy scratch over the past few games and that continued against the Habs. The 28-year-old forward has two goals and nine assists (for 11 points) in 26 games this season.
What’s Next for the Sabres?
The Sabres have a Norris Trophy candidate this season in Rasmus Dahlin. The trophy is awarded to the defenseman who demonstrates the greatest all-around ability at his position, and Dahlin is having a good season. He’s put up strong numbers with 65 points in 69 games, and his two-way play has been solid. However, the San Jose Shark’s Erik Karlsson seems to be the frontrunner for the award.
Still, Dahlin is having a great season and should garner some votes from the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association which selects the winner. It’s great for the organization that Dahlin will be mentioned in the Norris Trophy conversation.