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DUFFER: OBSERVATIONS THROUGH 4 PRESEASON GAMES

by Brian Duff / Buffalo Sabres

Nine days on the ice, three intra-squad scrimmages and four preseason games in the books.

The next chapter is well underway, even though no one is truly keeping score just yet.

And the list of those worthy of mention after a week-and-a-half of camp is growing with each passing day. To avoid any perceived bias, we’ll go through this numerically, starting low to high, of players who have caught these eyes.

(Photo Credit: Bill Wippert)

#3 MARK PYSYK
His time has come to make the jump to the NHL full-time and games versus Minnesota and Toronto gave us a reminder of what he could be.

Monday he played a lot with the “far” younger Brendan Guhle and the results were positive for both, at more than 20:00 time-on-ice.

Friday in Toronto was one of those games that he won’t always have, but is more than capable of.

Calming passes that led to a pair of power play goals, and ultimately a power play winner through a screen. The beauty of the shot - a perfectly placed half slapper - which was all the situation required. A reflection of how he often plays the game.

#9 EVANDER KANE
Three goals in two games, one on the power play, one shorthanded and one even strength. Whether he creates it himself, or is the beneficiary of fine plays around him, his presence and finishing ability is obvious, and that includes being a heavy body when required.

#22 JOHAN LARSSON
Unlike the end of last season, he’s not playing with the team’s best players shift in and shift out. But it’s obvious he knows what’s expected of him, no matter where he is slotted from night to night.

He was terrific between Marcus Foligno and Nicolas Deslauriers on Monday, engineering a breakout, advancing through the neutral zone and completing a center lane net drive that resulted in a game-tying goal.

Saturday in Ottawa he was tasked with a last minute in-zone faceoff while short-handed. A clean win by Larsson was a precursor to his game-clinching empty netter.

Versatility is and will be key for Larsson this season.

#29 JAKE McCABE
A preseason high (for him) of 22:52 time-on-ice Saturday capped a steady improvement over his three preseason games to date. And that’s as much the opinion of those I’ve canvassed as opposed to only my own belief.

Asserting himself physically at the right times, smart use of the middle of the ice on breakouts, and his embracing (from July’s Development Camp until now) of a leadership role when it’s been required - both in games, and off the ice.

All that and I’m still marveling at his poise on the Sabres third goal in Toronto on Friday, as he calmly took a pass of the outside of his right skate as if it had been placed right on the tape.

#41 JACK EICHEL
No words.

#44 NICOLAS DESLAURIERS
He capped the final game of the intra-squad scrimmages on Sunday with a pair of goals. He scored again on Monday versus the Wild, and then finished a perfect feed from Sam Reinhart (who I probably should have elaborated on earlier) to keep his goal-scoring “streak” alive.

Size, speed, and some finish from D-Lo? Could be a pleasant surprise as the season progresses.

#45 BRENDAN GUHLE
Not gonna lie, I was a little disappointed to not see the smooth skating Guuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuhleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee in the lineup for a fourth-straight game on Saturday.

But that wasn’t unexpected of course. I was merely enjoying the ride of this 51st overall pick of 2015, who has been THE surprise of camp so far.

Mistakes? Sure he’s had made a few. But his ability to absorb, learn, improve and make an impact on the fly has been nothing short of fantastic to watch.

#63 TYLER ENNIS
See: Eichel, Jack.

Or just watch the highlights of his hat trick/four-point night against the Senators, over and over again:

#82 MARCUS FOLIGNO
A lean, determined, young veteran. And not unlike many others on this dramatically different Sabres roster.

But with what we know is in the genes (if not the toolbox) and his clear understanding of how he can best impact this team moving forward, one should be anxious to see what the coming year brings for the big 82.

#90 RYAN O’REILLY
It’s the little things. In all zones. All night long. I implore you to watch his game differently than you watch other players.


The week ahead will bring about three more games - home to Toronto on Tuesday, at Minnesota on Thursday and home to Columbus on Friday - the final chapters of a seven-game preseason schedule.

And then the announcement of the 23-man roster that will begin as Buffalo Sabres for the 2015-16 season. Opening night is Oct. 8 against Ottawa.

You have every reason to be excited.

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