ST. PAUL, MINNESOTA - Matt Moulson and Kyle Okposo have had their fair share of history as linemates, which dates all the way back to the 2009-10 season when they were teammates with the New York Islanders. In five seasons together, they logged 1,102:04 of shared ice time at 5-on-5.
Now, they're linemates once again in Buffalo on the Sabres' top line with Ryan O'Reilly as their center.
So far, the results have been positive, even beyond the three goals Okposo has scored in his last two games. Corsi-for percentage is a statistic indicating the percentage shot attempts coming from a team when given players are on the ice, and the trio of O'Reilly, Moulson and Okposo have posteda 52.69 percent mark in 27:31 of shared 5-on-5 ice time. Meanwhile, they've spent 57.1 percent of that time in the offensive zone.
"We've, over the past couple of games, had a lot of opportunities to score," Moulson said following practice in St. Paul on Monday. "I think the more you play with the same linemates, the more you get used to them and where each other are. Even if you played with each other before, I think just getting to know each other's tendencies now is important."
The trio has also gotten the chance to know each other on the power play, where they've anchored a top unit that has scored eight goals in eight games. Four of the goals have come from Moulson, two from O'Reilly and one from Okposo. Those three players have also combined for six assists on the man advantage.
What helps them is a shared knowledge of what they're trying to accomplish as a line. Whether or not they're able to execute on a given play, Moulson said, more often than not, they've done a good job of reading off one another with the same goal in mind.
When asked about what has stood out about Okposo's game most so far, both Moulson and O'Reilly brought up his use of size and his strength on the puck.
"I think he's doing a great job of taking it to the net and creating those opportunities he beats a guy down low and creates mini odd-man opportunities down low below the circle," Moulson said.
"He's good at carrying the puck in as well. He's got a lot of assets but I think that's his biggest asset is jus being strong on the puck, making plays, and sometimes it creates offense out of nothing where he can hang on to it and beat the guy and create something."
To see what Moulson is talking about, look at these back-to-back plays from the second period of the Sabres' game against the Minnesota Wild last Thursday. On the first play, Okposo carries the puck at the bottom of the circle, spins around and is able to use his body to ward off Minnesota defenseman Jonas Brodin to create room to reach the net-front.
That attempt was stuffed by Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk, but he made a similar play off of the very next faceoff. This time it was Christian Folin who played victim along the wall as Okposo held strong on the puck and got in alone on the net.
Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said that Okposo had created roughly 15 scoring chances in a three-game stretch prior to this weekend, when he scored once in a win over Florida and twice more in a victory over Winnipeg. With the amount of offense he was creating, perhaps it was inevitable for the pucks to start finding the back of the net.
Moulson said he sees the same thing from the trio as a whole going forward.
"I think each day is an opportunity to create offense the way we want to create it in practice and games," Moulson said. "I think it's coming. I feel like we're right on the verge of having a break of goals in the game."
Fasching out in Minnesota
Hudson Fasching did not practice on Monday after leaving in Winnipeg with a groin injury in the first period. Bylsma said that Fasching will not play against the Wild on Tuesday night. The Sabres will recall a forward from Rochester to join the lineup in his absence.
Who takes the shot?
After missing their chances at an empty net late in the game against Winnipeg on Sunday, it might go without saying that the Sabres spent some time at practice clearing pucks toward the empty cage. Afterward, Brian Duff asked players who they'd trust most to take that shot, which is the subject of today's Sabres in :90.
Video: Sabres in :90 (10/31/16)
Baptiste more comfortable after second recall
Bylsma joked prior to the game in Winnipeg that he hoped to see Nicholas Baptiste continue his streak of scoring goals without actually taking a shot. Baptiste played the first two games of his career in Calgary and Vancouver earlier this month and scored his first goal on a bounce off of a Canucks defender.
Well, that run came to an end in more ways than one. Baptiste wasn't able to score a goal, but he did generate plenty of offense with three shots in eight minutes of ice time.
"I feel good," Baptiste said. "I think last night I got a lot more chances, generated more offensively than I did in the last two games. I think it comes with a bit of confidence, knowing I can play at this level and contribute at this level. I'm looking forward to tomorrow and trying to generate even more than I did last game."
Baptiste got looks with different linemates due to Fasching's early exit, including a 4-on-4 shift alongside O'Reilly. Bylsma said he thought the rookie put his speed on display more in those situations than he had in games past.
"I thought Nick's game in Vancouver was a solid game," Bylsma said. "He had an opportunity to show more speed in last night's game, show he can be effective … I thought you got to see a little bit more of what Nick can bring."