The Columbus Blue Jackets are who the Buffalo Sabres thought they were. That was Dan Bylsma's take away after his Sabres met the Blue Jackets for the first time this season on Friday night, the first leg of a home-and-home series that continues tonight at KeyBank Center.
"Nothing really, other than that they showed what they are," Bylsma said when asked what he learned from facing Columbus. "I don't think they bull you over with high-profile names. I think they certainly have good players and skill, but they're a working team, an aggressive team.
"They're a team that probably has the highest battle level in the League of any teams we played."
Video: BYLSMA: Pregame Interview
Boone Jenner's late goal sunk the Sabres in last night's meeting,a 4-3 Blue Jackets win. Buffalo came away thinking it had done many things well in the game, but the disappointment of an eighth defeat in nine games outweighed any positive sentiments about their play.
One area they'll surely need to improve upon is the penalty kill, on which they went 1-for-3 on Friday. Columbus' fifth-ranked power play scored once on a redirect from Nick Foligno in the slot and again on a shot by Sam Gagner from outside the right faceoff circle.
"They're a very effective power play and they have weapons and plays throughout their five guys on the ice and we got running around a bit on the first one and duplicated some coverage," Bylsma said.
"The second one is, it's one of the those plays that's a flanker shot from the side, it's outside the scoring area - just outside - and Josh [Gorges] is defending there, he's taking away the far side of the net and blocking that area. [Gagner] puts a BB right in the upper corner."
Gorges was on one kneed attempting to block the shot on Gagner's goal. It was the exact kind of play Bylsma was referring when he said he believes the defenseman has been playing his best hockey of the season as of late. Gorges also scored his first goal of the season in Columbus.
"I think over the last stretch here, we haven't had a lot of success but he's been the card-carrying member of how want to play, being tough, aggressive, physical and putting his body on the line for the team," Bylsma said. "That's got to be the mantra for our team."
With Robin Lehner having gotten the start on Friday, the Sabres will turn to Anders Nilsson in net.
Coverage on Saturday begins at 6:30 p.m. with the Tops Pregame Show on MSG-B, or you can listen live on WGR 550. The puck drops at 7 p.m.
9 Evander Kane - 90 Ryan O'Reilly - 56 Justin Bailey
26 Matt Moulson - 15 Jack Eichel - 23 Sam Reinhart
82 Marcus Foligno - 28 Zemgus Girgensons - 12 Brian Gionta
44 Nicolas Deslauriers - 71 Evan Rodrigues - 63 Tyler Ennis
29 Jake McCabe - 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
41 Justin Falk - 47 Zach Bogosian
4 Josh Gorges - 6 Cody Franson
31 Anders Nilsson
40 Robin Lehner