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Dahlin reflects on rookie grind ahead of season finale in Detroit

Ullmark to start in net; Nylander remains sidelined

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber /

DETROIT - Rasmus Dahlin's rookie season has been filled with ups and downs, from the high of a 10-game winning streak in November to the low of going eight contests without a victory in March. 

For all its peaks and valleys, the rookie defenseman admitted it will be bittersweet when the Sabres wrap up their 2018-19 campaign against the Detroit Red Wings tonight at Little Caesars Arena. 

"It's sad. It's not what I expected," Dahlin said. "It's pretty different. The season is ending after today, I don't know what to do. Go back home to Sweden, meet my family. But not hanging out with the boys every day, it's going to be different."

Dahlin had a whirlwind of a season last year, when he represented Sweden at World Juniors and the PyeongChang Olympics in addition to playing 41 games with Frolunda of the SHL. 


As exhausting as that may have been, the grind of a full NHL season is another type of challenge. Dahlin will finish as one of three Sabres to play all 82 games this season, along with Jeff Skinner and Sam Reinhart.

"In less time, you play more games," he said. "It's a lot different. You have to take care of your body a lot more. I've said it so many times, but eat right and sleep right, it makes so much difference."

Dahlin made history in the process, accumulating the second-most points (42) ever by an 18-year-old defenseman in the NHL. His coach, Phil Housley, holds the record for his 57-point campaign in 1982-83. Bobby Orr ranks third with 38 points in 1966-67. 

Dahlin's 42 points lead rookie defensemen and are tied for third amongst all rookies. He was voted by his teammates as the Sabres' rookie of the year, for which he received a loud ovation during the team's home game against Ottawa on Thursday. 

Video: Rasmus Dahlin: 2019 Rookie of the Year

"It's been a fun season overall," he said. "It's pretty weird to talk about yourself when the team doesn't play that well. But of course, the fans we're so kind to me and I really appreciate it. I love the fans, they're here every game and they really show us support."

As for the team, Dahlin remains optimistic about the future. 

"I've learned a lot," he said. "We're a good team, but we haven't figured out how to win games. The guys have all been positive. We're a great group of guys so, of course it sucks to lose, but next year we can all make it better."

Coverage of tonight's game begins at 6:30 p.m. on MSG-B, or you can listen live on WGR 550. The puck drops at 7. 


Scouting the Red Wings

The Sabres are 2-0-1 in three matchups with the Red Wings this season, but dropped their most recent meeting in overtime after staging a third-period comeback on March 28. Casey Mittelstadt scored in that game, giving him three points (2+1) in three contests against Detroit. 

Buffalo and Detroit are tied in the standings with 74 points each. The Red Wings, led by fourth-year forward Dylan Larkin (73 points), are 8-2-0 in their last 10 games and had a four-game winning streak snapped in a loss to Pittsburgh on Thursday.

"I think [we need to] just continue to build off the last two games,' Housley said. "I think we're playing the right way, the way we want to play. But this is a game where we've got the same exact record [as the Red Wings]. We can move up the standings as well, as much as that means. But it's something to play for."


Projected lineup

Video: PREGAME: Housley

Alexander Nylander will miss a second-straight game due to a cut he sustained on his leg against Nashville on Tuesday. Housley said the team still expects Nylander to be back in the lineup for Rochester before its playoff run begins later this month. 

Linus Ullmark will start in net, with the rest of the lineup remaining the same from Thursday's win:

41 Victor Olofsson - 9 Jack Eichel - 23 Sam Reinhart
53 Jeff Skinner - 71 Evan Rodrigues - 21 Kyle Okposo
20 Scott Wilson - 37 Casey Mittelstadt - 43 Conor Sheary
28 Zemgus Girgensons - 22 Johan Larsson - 29 Jason Pominville

19 Jake McCabe - 62 Brandon Montour 
26 Rasmus Dahlin - 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
24 Lawrence Pilut - 8 Casey Nelson

35 Linus Ullmark
40 Carter Hutton

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