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Internal competition will continue in preseason finale

Sabres will continue to evaluate depth in Pittsburgh on Saturday

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber /

Ralph Krueger has made it clear that there will be no ends following the Sabres' preseason finale in Pittsburgh on Saturday. 

The Sabres practiced with 28 players on Friday. That number needs to come down to 23 before next Thursday's regular-season opener. But, whether they are with Buffalo on opening night or not, the competition for all 28 of those players continues beyond this weekend.

To that end, the young players who take the ice Saturday can simply view the exhibition as another chance to make an impression.

"I'm still here," forward Rasmus Asplund said. "It's [18] forwards left, and I really think that I have a chance to be here next week. If I'm not, I still feel that I'm going to push myself to make the team."

Video: TRAINING CAMP: Krueger

The Sabres will utilize their final preseason contest both as a last chance to evaluate the players who might claim the final spots available in the NHL lineup and as an opportunity to reinforce the concepts that will be stressed at all levels of the organization.

"Tomorrow's definitely going to be a game where, first of all, there's going to be some internal competition, head-to-heads just to see what players [perform] in difficult circumstances … how they can produce within that framework that we're trying to work at here," Krueger said.

"What we want to see tomorrow is a continued growth in our game. Consistency. I thought we've been a little in consistent. We haven't pulled it through 60 minutes really as of late. We'd like to see a solid 60-minute defensive performance and, again, continue to work hard the way they have been, and we'll automatically grow."

The circumstances of the game present a unique situation for both teams, who will meet again in the same building for the regular-season opener five days later. With that in mind, Krueger said there will be no rush to showcase any specifics of the Sabres' game plan.

"There's no need to reveal any cards," he said. "Now, Pittsburgh has a lot less to hide because they've got a very similar core group: management, staff, coaches, everything. So, it's us that maybe will just roll and play and work hard and hopefully save some secrets for Thursday."

On an individual level, Krueger has stressed that players will be evaluated on their entire body of work more so than their performance in any one game. Young players like Asplund and William Borgen will lean on the strengths that helped them earn their way to the final stage of camp.

"I don't want to change too much in my game," Asplund. "I'm here for a reason. I'm here because I've been the player I am. I don't want to change anything, just want to get better every day and get used to the NHL level."

"If I'm in the lineup, just give my all, play my game, not do anything out of the ordinary," Borgen added. "I think that's what's gotten me this far. I'll just stick to it."

The game on Saturday can be seen live on MSG, with puck drop set for 4 p.m. Dan Dunleavy and Rob Ray will have the call on WGR 550.


Lines at practice

68 Victor Olofsson - 9 Jack Eichel - 23 Sam Reinhart
53 Jeff Skinner - 90 Marcus Johansson - 17 Vladimir Sobotka
20 Scott Wilson - 71 Evan Rodrigues - 21 Kyle Okposo
13 Jimmy Vesey - 37 Casey Mittelstadt - 43 Conor Sheary 
81 Remi Elie - 74 Rasmus Asplund - 72 Tage Thompson
28 Zemgus Girgensons - 22 Johan Larsson - 27 Curtis Lazar

26 Rasmus Dahlin - 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
6 Marco Scandella - 33 Colin Miller
58 John Gilmour - 3 William Borgen
10 Henri Jokiharju - 8 Casey Nelson

40 Carter Hutton 
35 Linus Ullmark

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