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Sharpen Up: All the Sabres news you need to know on October 24, 2019

Vesey returns to New York, Mittelstadt's OT effort, and more

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber /

It's a game day in New York City. 

The Sabres play the first of back-to-back road games tonight against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden, then head to Detroit for a meeting with the Red Wings tomorrow. 

They'll be looking to keep their hot start going. At 8-1-1, the Sabres have matched their second-best record through 10 games in franchise history, joining the 1975-76 and 2009-10 teams. They're coming off a 4-3 overtime win against the San Jose Sharks at home on Tuesday. 

Coverage on MSG begins at 6:30 p.m. The puck drops at 7. 

Here's what you need to know. 


Tonight's matchup 

It will be the first return to Madison Square Garden for former Ranger Jimmy Vesey, who spent his first three NHL seasons in New York. He was asked about his expectations for the game after practice at KeyBank Center on Wednesday. 

"Just a little weird playing against some old friends," he said. "I was saying the other day, I've never played against a former team before so I'm excited for it. It will be good to see some familiar faces, not only players but trainers and staff and stuff like that. I'm looking forward to it."

The trio of Vesey, Casey Mittelstadt, and Conor Sheary have gotten going as of late in terms of offensive production. But since the start of the season, Vesey has impressed coach Ralph Krueger with his willingness to accept any role that's asked of him.

So far, that's meant more of a defensive role than he was used to in New York. He's been elevated to a line with Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart late in games when the Sabres are trying to hold a lead and has been a consistent presence on the penalty kill.

"I've been used in all situations and so far this year I've been on the PK and I guess more of a defensive role," he said. "Whenever I'm on the ice, I'm going to take pride in that."

Vesey's former team enters the contest having lost its last five games, coming off a 3-2 overtime loss to Arizona at home on Tuesday. The Rangers have allowed an average of 3.57 goals per game, the fourth-highest mark in the NHL. 

Mika Zibanejad leads the Rangers with 11 points (4+7) in seven contests. Offseason acquisitions Artemi Panarin (4+2) and Jacob Trouba (1+5) are tied for second with six points each. Kaapo Kakko, the second-overall pick in this year's draft, has one goal and one assist. 

As for the Sabres, here are tonight's top notes:

•   Carter Hutton is 4-1-0 in his career against New York, boasting a .953 save percentage and a 1.48 goals-against average in those games.

•   Hutton entered play Wednesday ranked in the top three in the NHL in save percentage (.943), goals-against average (1.65), shutouts (2) and wins (6).

•   Kyle Okposo has totaled 20 points (5+15) in his last 20 games against the Rangers.

•   The Sabres have scored the first goal in eight of their 10 games so far this season, going 7-1-0 in those contests. Entering play Wednesday, only the Washington Capitals had scored first in as many games as Buffalo.


Looking back to Mittelstadt's OT effort

The two-way effort by Mittelstadt that preceded Eichel's overtime goal on Tuesday got some attention from NHL Network analyst Kevin Weekes, who dropped the name of a Hall of Fame defenseman in his breakdown of the play: 

Tweet from @NHLNetwork: "That's a Nick Lidstrom-esque, defenseman-type read there."@KevinWeekes was so impressed with @CMittelstadt's play, he had to break it down. #NHLTonight | @BuffaloSabres

"One of my buddies sent me that clip last night," Mittelstadt said. "They were just making fun of me the whole time. It's pretty good. It's pretty funny."

Mittelstadt downplayed the sequence, but Ralph Krueger said the play was a primary point of focus when the team met Wednesday morning. We broke down why in yesterday's Ice Level Practice Report, which you can read here.  


How did he do it?

Eichel, meanwhile, flipped a switch and took over the game beginning in the second period against the Sharks. We asked his teammates how he did it in yesterday's Sabres in :50. 

Video: Sabres in 50: Reflecting on Eichel's 4-point Night


70s Night is right around the corner 

Believe us, you won't want to miss it.
Tweet from @BuffaloSabres: Break out your bell bottoms and leisure suits...70s Night is right around the corner! Tickets:

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