FINAL: BLUE JACKETS 3 | SABRES 1
FIRST NIAGARA CENTER | BUFFALO, N.Y.
GAME DAY PHOTO GALLERY
POST GAME INTERVIEWS
Cam Atkinson --> WATCH HERE
Jack Skille --> WATCH HERE
Todd Richards --> WATCH HERE
N GAME UPDATES
Artem Anisimov adds an insurance goal late in the third to make it 3-1 --> LISTEN HERE
Cam Atkinson's power play goal puts the Jackets ahead 2-1 in the third --> WATCH HERE | LISTEN HERE
SECOND PERIOD RECAP: At long last, Columbus got one past Enroth and it was a scintillating wrist shot from Jack Skille that beat the goaltender short side, top shelf at 13:21 of the second period. Skille skated down the right side, got himself to the top of the circle an
d ripped it under the bar and in, but the Sabres answered back 1:21 later. Anisimov and Hartnell missed the puck in the neutral zone and it gave Zemgus Girgensons a point-blank look at Bobrovsky, and he went five-hole to even it up at 14:42. That's where we stand entering the third period; shots favor the Jackets 24-12.
Jack Skille scores the Jackets' first goal of the season to make it 1-0 --> WATCH HERE | LISTEN HERE
FIRST PERIOD RECAP: The Blue Jackets did just about everything you could ask in the opening period, and thanks to four rings of the goal post, this is a scoreless game after 20 minutes at First Niagara Center. First it was Atkinson, then Hartnell...this could be a solid lead for Columbus but Jhonas Enroth has also been excellent between the pipes for Buffalo. He made a point-blank save on Letestu's breakaway and a shoulder stop on Hartnell in the slot, and those were just two examples of his first-period work. Shots are 12-7 favoring the Blue Jackets, who, in the words of their head coach, need to be a "better shooting team" and get more pucks to the net. Good start tonight in the season opener but they're still looking to get one where it counts.
MORNING SKATE UPDATES
Jack Johnson, Ryan Johansen, and head coach Todd Richards spoke after the morning skate
Jack Johnson --> WATCH HERE
Ryan Johansen --> WATCH HERE
Todd Richards --> WATCH HERE
For the Blue Jackets...
- No surprise here, but Sergei Bobrovsky is the starting goaltender for Columbus.
- The morning skate lines were unchanged from Wednesday's practice, but there were several combinations used in addition to these:
BLUE JACKETS 3 | SABRES 1
- In other words, we probably won't know the definite lineup until pre-game warmups.
For the Sabres...
Jhonas Enroth, who took the reins as the Sabres' No. 1 goaltender after Ryan Miller was traded to St. Louis, will get the start for Buffalo in the season opener tonight.
- Matt Moulson-Tyler Ennis-Drew Stafford is the Sabres' top line tonight. Newly-named team captain Brian Gionta will skate on right wing with Cody Hodgson at center and Sam Reinhart, Buffalo's top pick (second overall) in 2014, on the opposite wing.
The Blue Jackets
open the 2014-15 season on the road in Buffalo facing a team looking to rebound after a difficult season. The Sabres are coming off one of their worst seasons in franchise history, but they are flush with prospects and young talent, complimented by some veteran additions that should make them a more competitive squad.
The Sabres finished last season with only 52 points, their lowest total in a full season since finishing the 1972 season (their second season in the league) with 51 points. For perspective, they had 48 points in the standings at the end of the lockout-shortened 2013 season.
But the Sabres’ play on the ice improved noticeably when Ted Nolan, a former coach of the Sabres and the head coach of the Latvian national team, returned to the Sabres bench for the first time since 1997, replacing Ron Rolston. Under Nolan, the Sabres went 17-36-9 but put a better product on the ice, Nolan's interim tag was dropped on Mar. 31.
“(Nolan) is a good coach,” said Jackets coach Todd Richards. “I watched his team during the Olympics and he took some guys whose names you wouldn’t recognize and he got them to play hard, and they competed against the world’s best.”
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“Yes his goaltender was very good, but he did some good things with that group. I expect him to have (the Sabres) going.”
Nolan’s squad was last in the NHL in scoring with 159 goals, 39 fewer than the 29th-ranked Florida Panthers. Still, the Sabres got solid offensive production from center Cody Hodgson (44 points in 72 games) and Tyler Ennis (43 points in 80 games), and an encouraging campaign from 2012 first-rounder Zemgus Girgensons, who played 70 games after earning a roster spot as a 19-year-old.
The Sabres added solid veterans in the off-season. Rochester native Brian Gionta returns to Western New York and will be the team’s captain this season. The Sabres also signed Matt Moulson, whom they had obtained last season from the Islanders in the Thomas Vanek deal and then shipped to the Wild at the trade deadline. Moulson had 23 goals between the three teams last season, and he chose to return to Buffalo as a free agent. Sam Reinhart, Sabres' first pick (second overall) in the 2014 draft, will make his NHL debut against the Blue Jackets.
The Blue Jackets will kick off the season with high expectations, but a battered roster. Brandon Dubinsky, Nathan Horton, Ryan Murray, and Boone Jenner will all start the season on injured reserve. That blow could be softened by the return of Ryan Johansen, though coach Todd Richards will not guarantee his place in the lineup until after Thursday's morning skate.
With the exception of Murray, the Jackets' defense is largely intact, which will be a lift as they adjust to changing line combinations and missing personnel.
“We’re excited about our defensive group,” said Richards. “Tim Erixon has done a good job for us, and we know what the other guys can bring to our group. And I’m really excited about how our goaltenders have played during this training camp.”
Sergei Bobrovsky will start in goal for the Blue Jackets.
(These were lines employed during Wednesday's practice)
2014-15 #CBJ Opening Night
vs. New York Rangers
Saturday, 7 p.m. ET