This match-up between the Blue Jackets and Buffalo Sabres will mark the first time fans at Nationwide Arena get a look at rookie phenom Jack Eichel (but more on that later).
The Sabres last game was Tuesday against the Ottawa Senators at Canadian Tire Centre. Buffalo’s Matt Moulson opened the scoring and put the Sabres on the board at 6:01 of the first period, but Ottawa’s Ryan Dzingel, a former Ohio State Buckeye, scored his first NHL goal just over a minute later, at 7:10 of the frame, to level the score.
The second and third periods remained goalless, as did the five-minute overtime period. Both Eichel and Moulson were denied by Senators goaltender Craig Anderson in the shootout, and Bobby Ryan sealed it for Ottawa.
According to the Sabres’ website, Ryan O’Reilly and Zemgus Girgensons missed practice on Thursday, while Daniel Catenacci (upper-body) returned to the ice first the first time since Feb. 11. Both O’Reilly and Girgensons are expected to play on Friday in Columbus.
It was way back on Oct. 12, the Blue Jackets’ third game of the 2015-16 season, that these two teams last played each other. Heading into the game, both teams were looking to capture their first win of the campaign.
The Blue Jackets dropped the game, losing 4-2, and didn’t do themselves any favors, giving up seven power play opportunities to the Sabres.
After a scoreless first period, Rasmus Ristolainen put Buffalo on the board with a power play goal at 5:10 of the second period. In the third period, O’Reilly scored a power play goal, putting the home team up 2-0 in the frame.
Just 2:20 later, Brandon Saad scored a power play goal of his own, putting the Jackets on the board. But Columbus was never able to level the score; Eichel added on, giving the Sabres a 3-1 lead at 9:21 of the third.
Scott Hartnell scored on the power play at 13:13, putting the score at 3-2, but Matt Moulson scored the Sabres’ third power play goal of the evening to secure the 4-2 Buffalo victory.
The Blue Jackets are 12-8-1 in the all-time series against the Sabres, and 5-3-0 in their last eight, including the aforementioned 4-2 road loss on Oct. 12.
Eichel is one of five players to appear in all 58 games for the Sabres this season. In those games, he’s scored 17 goals and added 22 assists for 39 points.
The former Boston University standout is second among all Sabres in points this season, and has seen time at both his natural center position and on the wing. He is tied with O’Reilly and Sam Reinhart for most goals, and sits third overall for most assists.
The 19-year-old has been a steady point-producer for the team, and has recorded four points (one goal, three assists) in the team’s last five games.