The Buffalo Sabres have a tough road ahead if they want to make the playoffs, especially with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Florida Panthers holding the Eastern Conference wild-card spots. But if they can start winning down this crucial stretch, they might still have a chance to make a late push.
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That said, the Sabres also need the Penguins and the Panthers to falter. Even if they win most of their remaining games, without help from other teams, there’s no chance. The fact is that the road will be bumpy.
Item One: Craig Anderson Is Day-to-Day
Craig Anderson might not be playing for a while. He’s considered day-to-day with an upper-body injury and has been absent from some recent practices for maintenance reasons.
Anderson has played 25 games this season, with a record of 10-11-2, a 3.07 goals-against average, and a .908 save percentage. While the Sabres are not devoid of goalies – they still have Eric Comrie, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, and Devon Levi – Anderson has been their best netminder when healthy.
Item Two: Newcomer Devon Levi Gets Tonight’s Start
The Sabres are going to see what they have in Devon Levi tonight. The highly-touted goalie prospect will make his NHL debut against the New York Rangers (from “Devon Levi’s NHL debut in goal for Sabres will come Friday night vs. Rangers,” Buffalo News, 30/03/2023).
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Levi is considered a key part of the Sabres’ future. He had a stellar NCAA career, particularly during the 2021-22 season, when his record was 21-10-1, with an amazing goals-against average of 1.54 and a save percentage of .952. Tonight won’t be easy. The Rangers will be a tough first opponent and sit comfortably in third place in the Metropolitan Division with 98 points.
Item Three: Tage Thompson Is Game-to-Game with Upper-Body Injury
Tage Thompson missed his first game this past week and might miss another. He currently leads Buffalo in scoring with 44 goals and 45 assists (for 89 points) in 72 games.
Thompson will be a game-time decision. He played through the injury six days ago against the New York Islanders; however, he couldn’t go the next game against the Montreal Canadiens. If he can’t play, Casey Mittelstadt will likely center the Sabres’ potent first line with Alex Tuch and Jeff Skinner on his wings.
Item Four: Jordan Greenway Will Also Be a Game-Time Decision
The Sabres’ Jordan Greenway is also suffering an upper-body injury, and he too might not be able to play tonight. That said, he was practicing on the team’s third line, which suggests there’s a chance.
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Before his injury, Greenway had two points in his previous 31 games and only eight points on the season. He might end the season with the lowest point total of his five-year NHL career.
Item Five: Mattias Samuelsson Is Also a Game-Time Decision
Defenseman Mattias Samuelsson is also a game-time decision against the Rangers. He is rehabbing an upper-body injury. Samuelsson aggravated his injury on March 11 but improved enough to be considered for game action.
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So far this season, Samuelsson has a goal and seven assists (for eight points). He also has 89 hits and has blocked 80 shots in 48 games.
What’s Next for the Sabres?
Although the Sabres suffered a disappointing shootout loss on Monday night against the Canadiens, there was good news for the future. Their 23-year-old prospect Lukas Rousek made the Sabres faithful stand up and take notice with his impressive NHL debut.
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Rousek scored a goal and added an assist, which puts him in some elite company among Sabres players. In 1999, Maxim Afinogenov was the last player to accomplish that feat in his debut. Afinogenov was an exciting and talented player who had quite a successful NHL career. That augurs well for Rousek’s future.
Sabres’ head coach Don Granato commented that Rousek already has a solid understanding of the team’s systems and a feel for the game. He has already been reassigned to the American Hockey League’s Rochester Americans. However, there’s a chance he might be recalled before the end of the season.