OTTAWA - It had been teased in practice throughout training camp, but we had to wait until Friday to see Evander Kane, Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart play a game as linemates for the first time this season. If their performance against the Ottawa Senators was any indication, it might not be the last.
Reinhart scored a goal and fed Kane for another, while the trio combined for several other scoring chances in a 4-2 win to close out the preseason at Canadian Tire Centre. Kane and Eichel also tallied assists.
"We've been skating a lot in practice and we're familiar with each other," Reinhart said. "I know we're going to sit down in the week to come before the season and kind of get more familiar with each other. But I like the way we read off each other and controlled the play for the most part."
Video: Duffer's Recap: BUF 4 - OTT 2
It was a five-man effort on the forecheck from Eichel, Kane, Reinhart, Josh Gorges and Casey Nelson that produced the Sabres' first goal, and it ended in a bit of déjà vu. Nelson caught the puck at the blue line and took a shot, and Reinhart darted across the middle to score on a tip - exactly the same way the two connected for a goal against Carolina on Tuesday.
There was more to come after. In the third period, Eichel fed Reinhart from the wall and Reinhart just barely missed another tip-in goal. He made up for it later in the same shift, when he took the puck from Erik Karlsson in the crease and moved it across to Kane, who scored on a backhand.
The trio played together briefly in March of last season and had success, but their time as linemates was cut short when Kane's season ended early due to injury.
"We had some success when we played the right way," Eichel said. "We obviously had some more success tonight. I mean, backchecking, stripping pucks, that's our game. Forechecking, going to the net. We were rewarded and that's how we're going to have to play."
Video: BYLSMA: Postgame Interview
Eichel earned his assist in the second period, when he emerged from the box after serving a holding minor and quickly sprung free for a 2-on-1 rush. Eichel deked as he closed in on the net and got a pass across to Marcus Foligno, who scored his first goal of the preseason.
Eichel concludes the preseason having two games under his belt following a six-game stint with Team North America at the World Cup of Hockey.
"It was a good two games," he said. "I just want to keep getting better, have a good week of practice here and prepare for the Canadiens on Thursday."
When the Canadiens do come into town for the Sabres to open their regular season, it's fair to say there's a good chance we'll be seeing Kane, Eichel and Reinhart share the ice again.
Lehner gets the win
Video: LEHNER: Postgame Interview
Make that three preseason games, three wins for Robin Lehner. The Sabres' goaltender was sharp again against his former team, making 30 saves on 32 shots. He previously beat Ottawa with a 37-save performance in his preseason opener and followed that up with a 28-save shutout of the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday.
"He's played three games now and he's looked like the puck wasn't gonna get by him on any of those occasions," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. "That's a great thing to see from him … tonight I thought he was strong again."
One more goal for Grant
Derek Grant sealed off his tremendous preseason with a shorthanded goal to give the Sabres a 3-0 lead 7:22 into the second period. He and Kane broke for a 2-on-1 rush off a turnover, and Grant was on the receiving end of a cross-ice pass to score his sixth point (3+3) in six exhibition games.
"It was a great play by Evander and Granter finished off the 2-on-1," Bylsma said. "We made a lot of plays to get those opportunities."
Protecting the lead
Jean-Gabriel Pageau scored just 20 seconds after Grant to bring Ottawa within two, but Kane struck again with his own goal 8:18 into the third. Kyle Turris scored to give the Senators some life with 8:36 remaining in the contest, but the Sabres held them off.
"I like that there were a bunch of different aspects of the game that we were able to battle through," Reinhart said. "I mean, having a two-goal lead going into the third and extending on it. They were pressing late but we were able to hold off comfortably. I think that bodes well for our confidence."
The Sabres return home for practice on Sunday, and then it's time to prepare for the real thing. The Sabres open their season against the Canadiens at 7 p.m. on Thursday.You can purchase tickets and join us at KeyBank Center, watch live on MSG or listen on WGR 550. Rick Jeanneret and Rob Ray will have the call.