The Buffalo Sabres' 4-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday marked Game No. 1 for Buffalo without alternate captain Ryan O'Reilly in the lineup. Coach Dan Bylsma announced afterward that it is only the beginning of the time they'll spend without their All-Star center.
O'Reilly will miss 3-to-4 weeks with the lower-body injury he sustained in Friday night's win in Columbus.
"He's a guy who plays in every situation for our team," Bylsma said."He plays in the offensive zone, he plays in the defensive zone, he's playing power-play, he's playing penalty kill. You need a big draw he's the guy that's stepping over the boards and that's something we're going to miss."
The faceoff circle was the area where his absence shined brightest on Sunday. O'Reilly leads the League with 1,489 faceoffs taken and wins those faceoffs at a 57-percent clip, which ranked eighth in the League entering Sunday. Without him, the Sabres were 30-for-72 (42 percent) against Pittsburgh.
"He's obviously dominant in the faceoff circle," defenseman Zach Bogosian said afterward. "It seemed like we were chasing the puck quite a bit, but we have to have guys step up and hopefully we can do that moving forward."
Rather than focus on O'Reilly's absence, goaltender Robin Lehner looked at the injury as an opportunity for some of the Sabres' other young players contribute even more in the coming weeks.
"Obviously it's a huge loss for us," Lehner said. "He's a world-class player and a leader in this room but, you know, it's an opportunity for other guys to step up and take over his ice time and show what they can do. Every team loses guys and it's just going to be a great opportunity for someone else."
Buffalo embarks on a three-game road trip through California this week, starting Wednesday night in Anaheim.