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Sabres disappointed in effort after loss to Leafs

Kulikov OK after exiting early; Grant scores second goal

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber /

Even for an exhibition game, the Sabres weren't willing to take many positives from their 8-1 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs at KeyBank Center on Friday night. It was an uncharacteristic effort for a Sabres team that had won two of its first preseason games and played well within its system. 

"They outplayed us," Sabres captain Brian Gionta said. "They were on top of us all night. We didn't have good reads. We weren't good with the puck. We lost battles. Pretty much everything that could go wrong went wrong tonight."

"I think the best thing about this game is that it's over now," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said."We can put it away and go back to building and implementing how we want to play."

Derek Grant scored Buffalo's only goal, tying the game at 1-1 midway through the first period after William Nylander opened the scoring for the Maple Leafs. Toronto dominated from that point on, going on to score seven unanswered goals, including three more in the first period alone. 

Watch: Dan Bylsma| Watch: Derek Grant | Watch: Brian Gionta |

The quality of the goals was especially disappointing for the Sabres. After Grant scored, Frank Corrado fed Peter Holland for a tap-in goal that Bylsma described as "pretty much a 2-on-0." Matt Hunwick then scored twice in 12 seconds to end the opening period, first with a shot that deflected in off a Sabres defender and then with a slap shot that saw its way through net-front traffic.

Bylsma said he felt like had had no other choice than to pull starting goaltender Jason Kasdorf, who was making his first preseason appearance, after allowing four goals on 13 shots to no fault of his own. Kasdorf was playing for Robin Lehner, who did not dress due to an arm contusion. 

John Muse replaced Kasdorf in net, but he saw much of the same. Kasperi Kapanen scored in the opening minutes of the second and Rich Clune and Jake Gardiner each scored before the end of the period. Holland added his second goal of the game in the third to round out the scoring. 

It was a missed opportunity for a lineup full of players competing to earn a spot on the Sabres' NHL roster.

"Plenty of opportunity out there for a lot of guys with the lineup up that we had," Bylsma said. "It was an opportunity for them to compete for a spot or the possibility of earning a spot and they didn't do that." 

Grant may have been the only player to take advantage of any opportunity when he tapped in a rebound with his backhand for his second goal and fourth point in three preseason games. Jake McCabe and Justin Bailey earned assists on the play.

Video: TOR@BUF: Grant backhands puck in off Enroth's skate

The goal may have helped further separate Grant from a pack of forwards looking to make the Sabres' roster out of camp, but it offered little solace to him given the result of the game.

"We got outcompeted in a lot of areas on the ice," Grant said. "Exhibition or not, nobody can hear can hang their heads up. It just wasn't good enough."


Baptiste, Kulikov exit early

Nicholas Baptiste left the game in the third period with a lower-back injury and did not return. Minutes after that announcement was made, Dmitry Kulikov - playing in his preseason debut for the Sabres - was hit hard into the wall causing the bench door to open. He stayed down temporarily before heading to the dressing room. 

Bylsma had no update on Baptiste after the game, but the news was good on Kulikov. 

"He's got a bruise on his backside but, at this point in time, it's not more than a bruise," Bylsma said. "I don't know if he'll be in practice tomorrow but we're looking at just a contusion on his rear."

Bylsma said Lehner's absence, meanwhile, was precautionary after the goaltender took a shot off the elbow in practice on Thursday. Lehner skated on Friday morning and the team began the day with the expectation that he would start in net.

"We just felt like it wasn't something we needed to have him play through today," Bylsma said.


Up next

With four games in five days now under their belt, the Sabres get a few days to prepare for their next preseason game. They'll play the Carolina Hurricanes at Lakeview Arena in Marquette, Mich., this year's Kraft Hockeyville USA winner. The game will begin at 7 p.m. and can be seen live on NBCSN.

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