RALEIGH, NORTH CAROLINA – It's Oct. 3 and the Buffalo Sabres will play their final preseason game against the Carolina Hurricanes at 7 p.m. at PNC Arena.
Players on the bubble like Zac Dalpe, Brian Flynn, Torrey Mitchell, Sam Reinhart, Mikhail Grigorenko, Nikita Zadorov, Jake McCabe and Tyson Strachan will have one final chance to impress before cuts are made.
A roster limit does exist and the coaching staff will reconvene over the weekend to discuss which players will make the team. Buffalo must get down to a 23-man active roster by Oct. 7.
Flynn, Reinhart, Girgorenko and Dalpe will each be playing in their fifth preseason game Friday night. Coach Ted Nolan has liked how his team has progressed through training camp and a large part of that comes from how prepared the players were coming in. After all, he mentioned they had a lot of time to get ready.
“We had a lot of rest. We didn’t make the playoffs. Our last game ended almost like two years ago so there was plenty of time to rest,” he said. “Playing five games was a perfect reason why some of these guys can really prove they want to contribute and help out. They should be nice and fresh.”
26 Matt Moulson – 25 Mikhail Grigorenko – 21 Drew Stafford
19 Cody Hodgson – 28 Zemgus Girgensons – 17 Torrey Mitchell
82 Marcus Foligno – 23 Sam Reinhart – 20 Zac Dalpe
44 Nicolas Deslauriers – 8 Cody McCormick – 65 Brian Flynn
4 Josh Gorges – 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
51 Nikita Zadorov – 41 Andrej Meszaros
29 Jake McCabe – 24 Tyson Strachan
34 Michal Neuvirth
1 Jhonas Enroth
BETTER SAFE THAN SORRY
Tyler Myers made the trip, but will not play. He was given a maintenance day on Thursday. Nolan said that if it was a regular season game, Myers would suit up, but with it being preseason, giving him rest is more important. Nolan said Myers will “definitely be ready” for the season opener on Oct. 9.
That puts Strachan in the lineup against Carolina. He played 21:39 on Wednesday and finished with an assist and a plus-2 rating.
“Hopefully he plays the same way he did last game. He opened some eyeballs last game so there’s another opportunity,” Nolan said.
NOTHING TOO FANCY
Zadorov can play up to nine games in Buffalo this season before his contract kicks in, making him ineligible to return to juniors. He can’t play in the American Hockey League this season, so he’s been working hard to earn a spot in the NHL.
Known for going out and making big hits and jumping into the rush, he’s been focusing on simplifying his game and not taking himself out of the play.
What does he think he needs to do to stick?
“Just play my game and be simple and keep going how I’ve played the last three games,” he said after the team’s morning skate.
LEFT, RIGHT AND CENTER STAGE
Dalpe is being given a great chance to shine as he’s playing on a scoring line with Reinhart and Marcus Foligno. He’ll be on the right wing against Carolina and has been used in many different situations in the four games he’s already played this preseason. It’s all grool to him.
“If you look where I’ve been, I’ve been left, right and center, literally,” he said. “This is my fifth training camp so I know what’s at stake and I just have to go out and play my game. Hopefully it all works out.”
Nolan has praised Dalpe’s speed but has noted that it’s important for Dalpe to harness it and use it wisely. The second-round pick of the Hurricanes in 2008 has heeded the coaching staff’s advice.
“You just sometimes get excited and you jump too quick. It is a fast game that the fans see, but you have to learn how to use it,” Dalpe said. “I think I did that a little bit better last game and just so antsy to get the puck, especially early on in the game, you want to get into a groove. It’s pulling back off a bit and seeing what happens. I’m still trying to work on that a bit."
Michal Neuvirth starts in goal, his second game of the preseason. He’s battling for the starting job with Jhonas Enroth. Through two games, Enroth has allowed one goal on 58 shots. Neuvirth is looking to bounce back from his last start in which he made 16 saves in a 6-4 loss. Nolan said that it’s a very important game for Neuvirth.
“I don’t think there are such things as unimportant games. Every game, whether it’s an exhibition game or whether they’re games in November or December or January, they’re all important,” he said. “Tonight’s no different, especially for that position.”
The game can be heard live on WGR 550. Dan Dunleavy and Rob Ray will have the call from the press box, located near the projection room in the arena. It’ll be so fetch.