CALGARY – From my vantage point on this West Coast trip so far, I see the Sabres very much missing the presence of two Western Canadian-born players in Tyler Ennis and Mark Pysyk.
Right now, the Sabres find themselves searching for ways to both skate the puck out of their own zone cleanly as well as getting in behind their opponents’ defenders when they want to start an attack.
Let's start with the defensive zone breakouts. We've seen enough of Pysyk to know that when it comes to handling the puck cleanly and making the right decisions with and without the puck, he, for me, was becoming perhaps the most reliable on the Sabres defense (or defence for my fellow Canadians).
We saw the Oilers use their speed to put pressure on the Sabres down low in the defensive zone. In my opinion, Mark is one of the better players on this team in handling that kind of pressure with his poise.
Where Buffalo really seems to be missing Ennis is when it comes to entries into the offensive zone, particularly on the power play. The Edmonton native’s willingness and ability to use his speed and tenacity in playing the puck in behind the oppositions' defense is something this team is missing. That point was reaffirmed to me in a conversation I had with assistant coach Dave Barr, who is responsible for the Sabres power play.
Unfortunately, for Sabres fans at the moment, there doesn't appear to be a specific timeframe for either player’s return to the lineup.
Rest assured this group will have its hands full when dealing with more speed and skill with the likes of Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan and the rest of the Flames on Thursday here in Calgary.
Join us Thursday night at 8:30 p.m. ET for the Tops Gamenight pregame show on MSG. You can also hear me and Rob Ray on WGR 550.