With only two preseason games left, the competition is heating up as the Buffalo Sabres look to nail down the 23-man active roster. On Tuesday, the team assigned seven players to the American Hockey League.
Many of the forwards and defensemen still in the hunt for NHL jobs will be in the lineup Wednesday night for Buffalo’s final home preseason date. Buffalo will play the Washington Capitals at 7 p.m. at First Niagara Center.
Jhonas Enroth will start in goal and first-round picks Sam Reinhart and Mikhail Grigorenko will have the chance to play with skilled linemates.
Looking further down the depth chart, other spots are being challenged for by two free agent signees from this summer.
Forward Zac Dalpe and defenseman Tyson Strachan are two players that have left a big impression on the coaching staff and management thus far. They’ve made it through the latest round of cuts and are one step closer to making the team.
Dalpe, a second-round pick of the Carolina Hurricanes in 2008 (45th overall), signed a one-year deal with Buffalo in July. After three years bouncing between Carolina and Charlotte of the American Hockey League, he suited up in 55 games for the Vancouver Canucks last season. He recorded four goals and seven points.
“Four years in a row, I’ve made the team out of camp, so this is the fifth year that I’ve wanted to do that,” he said. “Being in Carolina for three years, you’re up and down and I understand that young guys have to play in the minors and it’s a process. Then I spent the whole year in Vancouver and I learned a lot. I didn’t play a lot, but I learned a lot.”
It’s Dalpe’s quickness that has caught Nolan’s eye.
“He’s showed us that he has a tremendous amount of speed. And speed in this League kills but sped alone doesn’t necessarily get you a spot. It’s when to use his speed and when to slow down,” Nolan said. “He gets another look because of that factor. We need some speed on this team.”
If there’s a role to be played outside of the traditional scoring lines, Dalpe is committed to doing what he can to fill a void and be an impact player – whether he’s putting up points or not.
“I like to score and get points, but you look up and down the lineup, there’s room for me to be an energy guy,” Dalpe said. “As a guy that likes to skate, I want to continue to do that. It’s kind of routine, but you need to get pucks in and do the little things.”
Strachan is another veteran on the cusp of making the final cut. A six-year veteran, he’s played for the Blues, Panthers and Capitals. He’s also spent time between the NHL and AHL and at 29, he knows what’s expected of him as a player and a teammate. Strachan also signed a one-year deal in July.
“Something that comes with age is you get to roll with the punches a little bit better,” he said. “At the end of the day, you just hope that coaches and management like what you do out there, notice that you fit in and want to keep you here.”
Nolan says there is room in the lineup for a tough, defensive defenseman like Strachan and that making sure different skill sets are accounted for is a big part of selecting a roster. Strachan showed off his toughness in Buffalo’s first preseason game when he fought
“In this game, you can’t be all 30 goal scorers and all playmakers. You need some guys who want to get dirty once in a while and go into the corner and whack and bang,” Nolan said. “That’s why assembling talent is a lot different than assembling a team.
“You don’t need all swift, puck-moving defensemen. You need some good stay-home guys that bang and whack a little bit. Strachan, so far, he’s survived the cut, so we’ll see how he keeps going.”
26 Matt Moulson – 63 Tyler Ennis – 12 Brian GIonta
19 Cody Hodgson – 25 Mikhail Grigorenko – 21 Drew Stafford
82 Marcus Foligno – 23 Sam Reinhart – 80 Chris Stewart
20 Zac Dalpe – 28 Zemgus Girgensons – 65 Brian Flynn
4 Josh Gorges – 57 Tyler Myers
61 Andre Benoit – 29 Jake McCabe
24 Tyson Strachan – 51 Nikita Zadorov
1 Jhonas Enroth
34 Michal Neuvirth
Scratches: 6 Mike Weber, 8 Cody McCormick, 17 Torrey Mitchell, 44 Nicolas Deslauriers, 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
Injured: 3 Mark Pysyk, 22 Johan Larsson, 36 Patrick Kaleta