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Rookie of the Month Dahlin, Sabres prepare for difficult back-to-back set

Buffalo plays Nashville on Monday, hosts Toronto on Tuesday

by Chris Ryndak @ChrisRyndak /

NASHVILLE - Rasmus Dahlin entered the first month of his NHL career with a lot of hype surrounding him. The first-overall pick in the 2018 NHL Draft has been getting more and more comfortable as the season progressed. 

Now, at the end of his second month in the league, the 18-year-old defenseman has been named the NHL's Rookie of the Month for November. 

His ice time per game has increased 56 seconds on average to 19:54 from October to November, and he's been up over 23 minutes in four of the last five games. He skated a career-high 25:51 on Thursday against Tampa. 

There's also been an uptick in offensive production. He recorded a goal and nine assists over the 15 games played last month, including few dazzling plays like this assist on Jake McCabe's goal on Nov. 17 at Minnesota:

Video: BUF@MIN: Dahlin, McCabe combine for pretty goal

"I think more offense because I'm more comfortable with the puck. If you're comfortable, it's easy to have confidence," Dahlin said after practice at Centennial Sportsplex. 

The uptick in ice time has been part of the developmental plan set forth by the front office. Dahlin has also seen time on a pair with every other regular defenseman on the team, playing both the left and right side depending on the situation. 

"You want to put him in places where he's going to succeed first. I think he's handled it pretty well," coach Phil Housley said. "Let's face it, our younger players are going to make mistakes and we've had a lot of patience through that. But I think he's gotten better and used to more minutes. 

"I think he feels comfortable playing a lot more. It was just something that he earned. He earned his way up there."

He credited his teammates and the coaching staff for helping him in his first season both on and off the ice.

"It's easy to play on this team," he said. "They help me out a lot so thanks to my teammates right now."

Injury updates

Video: AFTER PRACTICE: Housley

Conor Sheary returned to practice after missing the last three games with an injury. He could return to action tomorrow night against the Predators.

"You always want to get back in the lineup, but you also don't want to rush it with injuries. I want to take it day by day, see how I feel in the morning and hopefully I can be back in the lineup and contribute to this team."

Jason Pominville left Friday's game with 6:39 to play when he was hit by Panthers defenseman Alexander Petrovic. Petrovic was given a boarding minor on the play. Pominville did not practice on Sunday and Housley ruled him out for Monday. 

Defenseman Marco Scandella, who is dealing with an upper-body injury that has caused him to sit out the last three games, was sent back to Buffalo.

Rasmus Ristolainen was given a maintenance day and Housley expects him to be ready for Monday's game. McCabe is day-to-day with an injury sustained on Thursday. He did not practice Sunday, either. 

Following a stretch of nine games in 15 days, the Sabres had yesterday off and held an upbeat and up-tempo practice on Sunday. They'll try to shake off back-to-back losses tomorrow night with a game against the Western Conference-leading Predators that will wrap up a three-game road trip. 

"Losing two games, we're not happy with the results we got, but on these road trips, you get to spend a lot of time with your teammates and get to know them pretty well. I think guys are kind of excited about that," Sheary said. "Today, we brought good energy, good excitement and we're happy with where we are in the standings. Hopefully we can come away with a couple points tomorrow night."

After the game, the team will fly home where the Toronto Maple Leafs are waiting. Buffalo hosts Toronto at KeyBank Center at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday. 

"After we get through this back to back, the schedule sets up pretty well for us," Housley said. "We'll get some quality practice time in. Obviously, it's been a tough stretch."


Here's how the line combinations and defensive pairings looked on Sunday

53 Jeff Skinner - 9 Jack Eichel - 23 Sam Reinhart
72 Tage Thompson - 37 Casey Mittelstadt - 21 Kyle Okposo
43 Conor Sheary - 71 Evan Rodrigues - 17 Vladimir Sobotka
10 Patrik Berglund - 22 Johan Larsson - 28 Zemgus Girgensons

4 Zach Bogosian - 26 Rasmus Dahlin
82 Nathan Beaulieu - 8 Casey Nelson
48 Matt Hunwick - 24 Lawrence Pilut
81 Remi Elie* - 5 Matt Tennyson
*Forward practicing on defense

40 Carter Hutton
35 Linus Ullmark

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