Johan Larsson will see action in his third straight preseason game for the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday. Buffalo takes on the Carolina Hurricanes at 7 p.m. at First Niagara Center and Larsson, who’s played both games on the road so far, is ready for his first game in front of a home crowd.
“I’m really excited to be here in front of these fans. I heard it’s very exciting here,” he said after practice.
Larsson, 21, was acquired from the Wild with Matt Hackett in the trade that sent Jason Pominville to Minnesota at the 2013 NHL Trade Deadline. Larsson has been playing center throughout camp and has pivoted a variety of wings including Zemgus Girgensons, Tyler Ennis, Joel Armia and Drew Stafford. Thursday night, he’ll be between Corey Tropp and Ville Leino. The game can be heard live on WGR 550.
Larsson said he hopes to play in as many preseason games as he can and that his effort will lead to landing with the Sabres for their season opener on Oct. 2 in Detroit.
“If I play very well here and do everything I can, I have a chance I think and I’m going for that of course,” he said.
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Sabres coach Ron Rolston has been impressed with Larsson’s play so far and has said he’s interested to see how the young forward adjusts from game to game in the exhibition portion of the schedule.
“I like his competitive nature. He’s hard to play against,” Rolston said. “He’s got really good hands, vision. He’s a very smart player. So again, those guys are going to get a lot of time here in the exhibition to see where they fit into the big picture.”
Ryan Miller will play the full game against Carolina. In each preseason game up to this point, the goaltenders have split time. It’s still possible at some point that Matt Hackett, Miller’s backup on Thursday, will get a complete game in as well.
“We’ve really liked how he’s played in the first two games,” Rolston said of Hackett. “He’s played exceptional for us so we’re just going to continue to get a feel for how things are going and then go from there.”
The Sabres will roll out a lineup against the Hurricanes that has some size on the blue line. Tyler Myers, Nikita Zadorov, Henrik Tallinder, Rasmus Ristolainen and Brayden McNabb are all at least 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds. Mark Pysyk, at 6-foot-1, 192 pounds, will be the smallest defenseman to dress.
Rolston said, however, that size isn’t everything.
“You still have to have the potential of going back to being able to move the puck, get around, end plays, all those things that are going to help us be a different hockey team in the future,” he said.
Zadorov is a player that could return to juniors, but Rolston continues to give him looks in the preseason and said he has a legitimate chance to make the squad.
“He’s got a shot. He certainly has a shot,” Rolston said. “He plays well and he can be somebody that makes the team. He’s got an opportunity, the same with Rasmus.”
26 Thomas Vanek – 19 Cody Hodgson – 33 Joel Armia
63 Tyler Ennis – 25 Mikhail Grigorenko – 65 Brian Flynn
78 Corey Tropp – 22 Johan Larsson – 23 Ville Leino
70 Colton Gillies – 12 Kevin Porter – 72 Luke Adam
61 Nikita Zadorov – 57 Tyler Myers
20 Henrik Tallinder – 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
44 Brayden McNabb – 3 Mark Pysyk
30 Ryan Miller
31 Matt Hackett
Hurricanes Lineup (via Hurricanes.com)
19 Jiri Tlusty – 11 Jordan Staal – 22 Zac Dalpe
53 Jeff Skinner – 23 Jeremy Welsh – 14 Nathan Gerbe
58 Chris Terry – 39 Patrick Dwyer – 18 Radek Dvorak
13 Jared Staal – 42 Brett Sutter – 32 Zach Boychuk
4 Andrej Sekera – 27 Justin Faulk
7 Ryan Murphy – 65 Ron Hainsey
47 Michal Jordan – 73 Brett Bellemore
31 Anton Khudobin
70 Mike Murphy