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Sabres look to build on positives after preseason loss in Columbus

McCabe scores and Ullmark makes 18 saves

by Chris Ryndak @ChrisRyndak /

COLUMBUS, OHIO - Phase 1 of Buffalo Sabres training camp is in the books.

Earlier in the day, before the Sabres flew out to Columbus to play the Blue Jackets in their second preseason game of 2019-20, head coach Ralph Krueger said he and general manager Jason Botterill will be evaluating the group after every two preseason games. 

With Buffalo's 4-1 loss to the Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena on Tuesday, the players will enter an off-day while the hockey department staff will begin discussions about how to best proceed with training camp.  

"We'll look for things that confirm what we want to do to get that into the players' minds, but individually, we'll be looking at a lot of lessons that we've seen here," Krueger said. "It's also been excellent for us to evaluate. You get to know the players so much better than in practice [when you're] standing behind the bench for those two games. We will be spending a day evaluating and then on Thursday, you'll be seeing some new looks for sure."

Video: POSTGAME: Krueger

Video: POSTGAME: Ullmark 

It took the Sabres a few minutes to get their legs under them against Columbus. Right off the bat, Buffalo found itself on the penalty kill. A one-timer from Emil Bemstrom beat Linus Ullmark on the first shot he saw to give Columbus a 1-0 lead 52 seconds into the game. 

"No matter how hard you work in the summer, you can't translate game speed," defenseman Jake McCabe said. "That's why these preseason games are so important - to get your timing back and in certain situations you haven't seen in six months. It was a nice game. I thought we did some nice things, definitely, to build on and a lot of things to learn from. So overall, it was a positive experience."

Even though the Sabres played on the road Monday night, they were able to ice a completely different lineup on Tuesday because of the expanded training camp roster. The 20 players who saw game action in Columbus had to wait that extra day to suit up, and the rust tended to show, mostly in execution, especially in the offensive zone. Buffalo's first shot on goal didn't come until there was 6:30 remaining in the first period. 

"Getting out under pressure was something that we expected to be difficult here in Columbus," Krueger said. "They play a pretty simple straight-line game. They come with big bodies at us and you have to remember, for a lot of guys, it's been many, many months since they've had guys run at them. I thought we adjusted better in the second and we were able to get away from that pressure. We just never used the O-zone time properly though."

Video: POSTGAME: Asplund


Buffalo eventually got on the board thanks to a shot from the point by McCabe. A screen in front by Victor Olofsson allowed the puck to beat goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks. 

However, Kole Sherwood put Columbus back on top 2:05 later, beating Andre Hammond, who made his first appearance in a Sabres uniform after signing with the team as a free agent on July 1.

Ullmark finished the game with 18 saves on 19 shots while Hammond made 11 saves on 13 shots in 29:01 of action. 

"I thought Linus recovered well from that early goal against," Krueger said. "He gave us a chance and bought us time to find out legs and find our game. Linus definitely left a good mark today."


Ullmark made one highlight reel save late in the first period on Sam Vigneault, making a pad stop on a rebound.

"It takes a couple minutes to get the groove on after a summer like this," he said. "After a while, I thought we played a pretty solid defensive game. So it was a lot of shots from the outer perimeter and those are a little easier to handle than those that are coming right from the slot."

Buffalo's next preseason game will be played on Friday in Toronto against the Maple Leafs. MSG in Buffalo will carry the Sportsnet feed of the game and fans can listen to Dan Dunleavy and Rob Ray call the action on WGR 550. Four preseason games - and two phases - remain before the first game of the regular season on Oct. 3.

The players will get back to work on Thursday, looking to build off the past week of work.

"When you have mixed groups in practice and especially with new coaches, new systems, there are going to be speed bumps. We knew that going into it," McCabe said. "What you really want to see is guys competing and making sure we're doing the right things - skating and being aggressive is really what we want to see the most."

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