Sabres News & Rumors: Goalie Play, Cozens & Beast of the East

Over the past week or so, the Buffalo Sabres played five games. In those games, the Sabres won one game and lost four of them. The losing string started with a 5-3 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Feb. 28. On March 2nd, they suffered their second loss when the Boston Bruins beat them at home 7-1. 

However, the Sabres bounced back on March 4 to earn a 5-3 victory over the slumping Tampa Bay Lightning. Then, unfortunately, they were unable to maintain that winning momentum. In their last two games, they lost to the Edmonton Oilers on March 6 and to the New York Islanders on March 7 by the exact same 3-2 score. 

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When the ice chips melted, that stretch of four losses in five games over eight days put the team a couple of points out of a potential playoff spot. Interestingly, the Sabres have the same exact record as the Ottawa Senators at 32-27-4 (with 68 total points).

In this edition of Sabres News & Rumors, I’ll take a look at the past two games and some of the player news emerging from those games. I’ll also share a note from hockey insider Frank Seravelli about the future of the Sabres.

Item One: Item: Hockey Insider Frank ​​Seravelli Says Watch Out for Buffalo

In a recent video, Frank Seravalli joined Ken Reid to discuss some of the news coming out of the NHL’s Atlantic Division. In the third part of that interview, Seravalli discussed the rise of both the Sabres and the Senators. He also discussed the possibility of those two teams’ abilities to each a wildcard spot in this season’s Eastern Conference.

His note was that the Islanders and the Pittsburgh Penguins might be in trouble, if not this season but next. Both the Senators and the Sabres are rising in the East. He believed these younger teams have been playing with confidence and momentum lately, and they could potentially challenge for a wild card spot in the East.

Seravalli reported that one NHL general manager he spoke with predicted that the Sabres could be the “beast of the East” in two years. He also noted a divisional turnover is coming. The Senators have also bolstered their team with the addition of Jacob Chychrun at the trade deadline.

Both the Islanders and Penguins have experienced some struggles this season. The Islanders have dealt with injuries to key players like Anders Lee and have played inconsistently. The Penguins are dealing with aging veterans and lack scoring depth outside their top players.

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Sadly, the Sabres missed a good chance to pick up ground for a postseason spot. Still, it’s too early to rule them out. They still could make a push. Both the Senators and Sabres are teams who could make things interesting down the stretch.

Item Two: Two Losses, But Two Solid Goalie Efforts

Craig Anderson started in goal for the Sabres against the Oilers on Monday. He was solid in the loss, making 34 saves in total but giving up a single goal in each period in the 3-2 loss. It was Anderson’s 22nd game of the season, and his record is 9-9-2 with a 2.78 goals-against-average and a .918 save percentage. 

Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen Buffalo Sabres
Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, Buffalo Sabres (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

In Tuesday’s game against the Islanders, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen made 36 saves but gave up three goals in the 3-2 loss. The game was close, tied 1-1 entering the third period. However, Luukkonen allowed two goals on 14 shots to take the loss. 

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Luukkonen’s record in 27 games this season is now 15-10-2, with a goals-against-average of 3.57 and a .894 save percentage. He’s given up at least three goals in each of his last four games.

Item Three: Dylan Cozens Scores in Two Games in a Row

In Buffalo’s game against Edmonton on Monday, Dylan Cozens scored a goal early in the third period to tie the game at 2-2. However, the Sabres ultimately lost 3-2. Cozens also on Tuesday against the Islanders. Again, his team lost 3-2. 

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Cozens now has scored 25 goals in the 2022-23 season. He now has 55 points in games. The 22-year-old forward had come off an inconsistent streak but is now on a three-game scoring streak, with two goals and three points during those games.

Item Four: Kyle Okposo Finally Scores a Goal

Kyle Okposo ended a four-game point drought with a goal Tuesday. His third-period goal tied the game at 2-2; however, the Islanders came back to win the game. 

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The goal was Okposo’s eighth of the season. With his 15 assists, he now has 23 points in 56 games. 

What’s Next for the Sabres?

The Sabres start a tough two-game home stand. They’ll meet the Dallas Stars on Thursday and the New York Rangers on Saturday. 

Mattias Samuelsson Buffalo Sabres
Mattias Samuelsson, Buffalo Sabres (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Earlier today, Lawrence Pilut was moved to the minors. That could be a sign that one of Riley Stillman or Mattias Samuelsson is ready to return from their injuries for Thursday’s game.

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