Sunday marked the Buffalo Sabres’ final tune-up in advance of their preseason opener Monday night in Minnesota. Following practice, coach Dan Bylsma said that Buffalo will carry 10 veterans to play the Wild, one of which will be Jack Eichel
, the second-overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft.
Team’s top selections from this year’s draft qualify as veterans in the preseason and a minimum of eight veterans per team are required for each preseason game.
Eichel will be joined in Minnesota by Matt Moulson and Zemgus Girgensons, who have served as the rookie’s linemates throughout the first weekend of Training Camp.
Bylsma also announced that Chad Johnson will start in net for the Sabres, although he plans to split time between Johnson and Nathan Lieuwen. Robin Lehner and Johnson, expected to be the team’s top two goalies this season, will likely each get at least one full game in net during the preseason.
Defenseman Bobby Sanguinetti was held out of practice and is day-to-day with an upper-body injury.
Monday night’s contest from Xcel Energy Center can be heard live on WGR 550 at 8 p.m. Dan Dunleavy and Andrew Peters will have the call. Sabres.com will be on-site and have full coverage of the game.
FOLIGNO STRONG IN PRACTICE
After a “long summer” of working out with his brother Nick, an All Star last season for Columbus, Marcus Foligno says that he’s come into this year’s camp in the best shape of his life. So far, it’s paying off on the ice – Bylsma said that Foligno delivered one of the most impressive performances in Saturday’s scrimmage, a performance he followed up with a go-ahead goal on Sunday.
Like all of the players on the Sabres’ revamped roster, Foligno is trying to carve out his role. At the outset of camp, he’s playing alongside veteran center David Legwand and physical forward Nicolas Deslauriers on what figures to be the team’s fourth line.
“It’s a clean slate for everyone. I have to prove myself, I’m going to earn everything I get this year, I know that,” Foligno said. “I feel rejuvenated, feel positive, and feel that I can get back to where I was and my game can get back to where it was when we were rolling and I was playing well offensively.”
Now entering his fourth NHL season, Foligno has confidence in his skill. He’s a physical playmaker who can disrupt other teams, but he’s also showed his offensive ability. Despite being limited to only 57 games due to injury last season, he still managed to tally a career-high 20 points.
His mission now is to continue climbing the depth chart.
“You always want to be up in the lines, and I feel I can get there,” he said. “But I know that I have to earn that and to show it to the brass and to my teammates as well. For me, Deslauriers, other guys who are young, every day is kind of a training camp and you want to produce every day.”
Then again, having Foligno on the fourth line wouldn’t be a bad scenario for the Sabres either. If the team performs like they’re expecting to, then their depth will allow Bylsma to roll out all four lines at any given point of a game.
Foligno’s already noticed the depth in practice. The scrimmages at have been high-paced, and he said that none of the top four lines have proved to be slower than the next. If the Sabres have a strong fourth line, he says, they’ll not only be able to outplay other fourth lines but compete with opposing teams’ second and third lines, too.
“It wasn’t like that in the past, it was tough, right?” Foligno said. “You keep the puck in their zone when you have all four lines cycling and wearing down their D and their top players. That’s huge.”
McGINN FEELING THE GAME OUT
While many of the Sabres found time to play hockey over the summer, Saturday’s scrimmage was Jamie McGinn’s first real game experience in nearly nine months. McGinn underwent back surgery last December while playing for Colorado and, since then, has been rehabbing and getting into shape for the season.
“I’m getting back into it, feeling the game out,” he said. “Felt good, no issues so just continue to strive and get better and continue to work on my game every day.”
McGinn did get better the next day, scoring a goal for the winning team in Sunday’s scrimmage. Entering his first year with the Sabres following a June trade that sent him to Buffalo along with Ryan O’Reilly, McGinn has been placed on a line with young center Sam Reinhart and team captain Brian Gionta to begin camp.
While Bylsma said on Friday that placing McGinn and Gionta on a line with Reinhart was a means towards giving the young center time in the offensive zone, McGinn believes that playing with those players will help him also. His personal goals are simple: He wants to play hard, all the time.
“I’m going to be a hard worker, help out in any way I can,” he said. “I feel like I can chip in with some goals but I want to change momentum if the boys are down, keep them loose and work hard. My goal is to never take a shift off and continue to work and get on the winning ways here. I know it’s been a couple of tough years, but we’re here to change that.”
Changing the team’s fortunes, he says, should begin to happen sooner rather than later.
“Absolutely, 100 percent. Right away. I don’t think there should be any hesitation there with a new coach, there’s a new look in the dressing room obviously; a lot of new personnel so I don’t think there should be any hesitation or a slow start,” he said. “We’re ready to go, we’re excited, and that’s what we need out of a group is the excitement to want to go play and want to win.”
Sunday’s scrimmage saw Foligno’s group beat the later practice group by a score of 4-2. Deslauriers scored twice and Foligno and McGinn each contributed a goal for the winning team, while Vaclav Karabacek and Jerry D’Amigo scored for the opposing team. Robin Lehner did not allow a goal in net in 20 minutes of play, including a strong stop on Brian Gionta in front of the net.
“The scrimmage is an opportunity for the individual players to play and show what they can do,” Bylsma said. “You’re just starting to put together things of how we’re going to play and so maybe this scrimmage more than any, we saw some of our players doing that and executing that, defending the way we need to defend, so this one was the best in that regard.”