NHL.com is providing in-depth analysis for each of its 31 teams throughout August. Today, three questions facing the Buffalo Sabres.
It was a trying season for the Buffalo Sabres, who missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the sixth straight season, had fewer points (78) than in 2015-16 (81), and finished last in the Atlantic Division.
There is new leadership in place with general manager Jason Botterill and coach Phil Housley replacing Tim Murray and Dan Bylsma, but many players from last season remain on the roster. How Housley implements his system and style of play could change things for the Sabres this season.
1. Will they reduce shots against?
The Sabres allowed an NHL-worst 34.3 shots per game last season. The workload that created for defensemen and goaltenders meant they spent a lot of time in their end. Housley's style of play will have to address this, and the additions of defensemen Marco Scandella and Nathan Beaulieu should help.
Video: 31 in 31: Buffalo Sabres 2017-18 season preview
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2. Who will score at even strength?
Left wing Evander Kane led the Sabres in goals last season (28), including 25 at 5-on-5. The power play was the best in the League (24.5 percent), and 60 of their 199 goals were scored with the man-advantage (30.2 percent). Buffalo will need forwards Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart, Ryan O'Reilly and Kyle Okposo to do more at even strength in order to make the offense more potent.
Video: NYI@BUF: Kane wrists home Smith's feed on two-on-one
3. Which defensemen will contribute offensively?
During Housley's NHL career, the defenseman was known for scoring (1,232 points in 1,495 games). Sabres defensemen scored 17 goals last season (13 at even strength), including a high of six by Rasmus Ristolainen. With a growing trend of defensemen providing scoring across the NHL, the Sabres need more from theirs.
Video: MTL@BUF: Ristolainen banks shot in off the post