By Brian Wheeler
The Buffalo Sabres' seventh defensive spot is temporarily up for grabs, but rookie Nathan Paetsch is steadily increasing his foothold on the position with each passing exhibition game.
Paetsch followed up Monday night's solid performance against the Toronto Maple Leafs, by orchestrating Buffalo's only goal against Columbus, logging more than 24 minutes of ice time, firing four shots on goal and blocking two shots. Pretty impressive numbers for a guy who has only played one game that counted at the NHL level.
The Sabres may have lost the battle Tuesday night, dropping the team's second exhibition game 4-1 in Columbus and moving to 1-1 in the process, but Paetsch is showing that he could close close out the war to become a full-time member of Buffalo's lineup sooner than most think.
"Again tonight, I just tried to work hard and play sound defensively," said Paetsch. "I just try to position myself at the right place at the right time."
Fast and highly skilled, Paetsch fits the perfect mold of what has become expected of a Buffalo defenseman. His two points in as many games give him the team lead, and his aggressive style in his own end forced the turnover that led to Jochen Hecht
's second period goal.
The tally gave Hecht his first of the preseason, and Buffalo's only lead of the game.
"I just keep trying to battle and finish my checks," said Paetsch. "I know that I have to stay aggressive in the defensive zone."
Despite outshooting Columbus 41-26, three consecutive power-play goals by the Blue Jackets slipped Buffalo into a two-goal deficit with 15 minutes remaining in regulation.
Geoff Platt added his first goal during exhibition play at 6:46 of the third to expand Columbus' lead to 4-1.
"It's tough to be a part of the role reversal tonight," said Paetsch, comparing the loss to Buffalo's four-goal victory on Monday night. "I thought as a whole we did not execute the way we did [Monday], especially on the power play."
A day after their special teams blitzkrieg against Toronto, the Sabres man-advantage unit sputtered and spat through three periods of play, failing to convert on nine opportunities. Columbus capitalized on three of their six chances.Ryan Miller
finished the game allowing four goals on 26 shots, while the goaltender combination of Ty Conklin and Fredrik Norrena made 40 saves for Columbus, including 12 in the first period and 18 in the second.
Columbus forwards Rick Nash and Platt led all scorers with a goal and an assist apiece. SCORING SHEETS Game Summary | Super Stats | Face-offs | Play-by-Play | Shift ChartSCORING SUMMARY
1-0 (2-0:47): Nathan Paetsch creates Buffalo's first goal with a deep pinch in Columbus' zone. Intercepting a clearing feed, Paetsch slung the puck to Jochen Hecht
in front for the easy redirect and a 1-0 Sabres lead. The goal is Hecht's first of the preseason. Paetsch records his second assist during exhibition play with the primary assist, while Chris Thorburn gets his first with the secondary.
1-1 (2-9:49): With a two-man advantage in favor of Columbus, Rick Nash tied the game with his second shot of the contest and first shot of the second period. The power-play goal is Nash's first of the preseason. Anders Eriksson and Anson Carter record the helpers.
1-2 (2-10:26): Ryan Miller
's clearing swipe missed a bouncing puck, which ended up on the stick of Geoff Platt, who slipped an across-crease pass to Jaroslav Balastik for Columbus' second goal. The power-play goal, Balastik's first of the preseason, comes just a minute after Nash tied the contest at a goal apiece. Platt gets the lone assist.3rd
1-3 (3-5:39): Anson Carter receives a pass from Rich Nash and beat Ryan Miller
with a backhander to give Columbus the two-goal lead. The goal is Carter's first of the preseason. Nash records his second point of the game with the primary assist, and David Vyborny gets the secondary helper.
1-4 (3-6:46): Geoff Platt recorded his second point of the game after he blistered a one timer into the wide-open net on an odd-man rush. The goal is Platt's first of the preseason. Mark Hartigan and Jaroslav Balastik record the helpers.