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Dahlin, Sabres prep for 5-game road trip out west

Ullmark awaiting opportunity; Skinner practices with Mittelstadt

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber /

Rasmus Dahlin is aware of the charter flight, the nice hotels and the warm weather awaiting the Buffalo Sabres on the West Coast. Other than that, he admitted he had few ideas in terms of what to expect on his first NHL road trip. 

It will be a doozy: five games spanning over nine days, including dates with four teams that were in the Western Conference playoffs last season. The lone exception is a visit to Arizona to kick off the trip on Saturday. 

"To be honest, I have no idea what to expect," Dahlin said. "Just go and have fun."

Fun for the Sabres would mean rebounding from their loss to Colorado on Thursday and climbing back over the .500 mark. But there's also truth to the team-building aspect of an early-season road trip, especially for a roster featuring eight new players. 

Video: Sabres practice before hitting the road

"I mean, whether it's going out to dinner or being on the plane together, being on the bus, in the locker room," Sabres captain Jack Eichel said. "It's a good time for us to get to know each other, to come closer as a group."

On the ice, Dahlin's increasing comfort was evident during the team's opening four-game homestand. His work along the boards in the offensive zone led to his first career point on Thursday, and he nearly scored his first goal driving to the net on his very next shift.

Video: COL@BUF: Beaulieu nets goal, Dahlin gets first point

"Yeah, I'm getting comfortable every game," Dahlin said. "I'm growing. It's getting better and better. I think we will bounce back."

"He's just got to enjoy it," Sabres coach Phil Housley said. "He's really developed his game. There's always areas of improvement for a young player, but I like the way he's tried to attack the game and come in and try to add to our offense and good to see him get his first point."

Dahlin was adamant that the team will continue to grow, too. The Sabres were pleased with the response they had at practice on Friday, a 40-minute session spent largely on execution moving the puck up the ice. 

"Yeah, we stayed focused," Dahlin said. "It looks like everyone wants to win again. It was a good practice."


Ullmark staying patient

Carter Hutton's early success in net has meant a long wait for Linus Ullmark, but that hasn't changed his demeanor in the dressing room. He was the same go-lucky goalie he's always been while speaking to the media after practice on Friday.

'I'm not getting frustrated by sitting on the side," he said. "As long as we're winning games, Hutts is playing good, I'm not going to be a sour guy and just be grumpy … I'm not going to do that, I'm not going to fall into that trap. I'm just going to be the same guy I always am. Supportive and very happy."

That said, he's eagerly awaiting his chance to get in net. That chance will almost definitely come during the upcoming road trip and could come in Arizona on Saturday. 

Waiting has been a change of pace for Ullmark, who's made at least 49 appearances in each of the last two seasons between Buffalo and Rochester. He's put in extra work to stay sharp in the meantime, which hasn't gone unnoticed. 

"I just like the work that he's put into it," Housley said. "He's come to work every day, staying out late after practices, trying to battle for every puck, every second opportunity.

"I told him a couple days ago I really appreciate what he's doing, and I know the guys really appreciate that, that he's focusing on his body of work as far as his practice habits."


Lineup changes

Video: Housley before the Sabres leave for the West Coast

Casey Mittelstadt and Jeff Skinner have been held without a goal through four games despite both players having generated quality chances. Based on Friday's practice, they'll have a chance to get on the scoresheet together in Arizona.

Mittelstadt centered a line with Skinner and Kyle Okposo while Patrik Berglund moved between Vladimir Sobotka and Tage Thompson. Housley said Mittelstadt's creativity in the offensive zone should make him a good match to play with Skinner.

"I think just trying to get somebody that thinks the game like him (Skinner)," Housley said. "I really like the way he's working, his forechecking, he steals pucks and he strips pucks and the way he's coming back into our zone. There's just nothing evolving from that point."

Housley credited Skinner with setting a well-timed screen on Colorado goalie Semyon Varlamov in the second period on Thursday, leading to Nathan Beaulieu's goal on a shot from the point.

"It was really his work," Housley said. "He's just got to continue to do that. He can create things, he's a proven goal scorer. So, I'm not worried from that aspect."

Sobotka could return to the lineup Saturday for the first time since sustaining an upper-body injury on opening night. Housley said the forward will make the trip, as will defenseman Zach Bogosian (lower body). 

Here's how the full lineup appeared at practice on Friday.

43 Conor Sheary - 9 Jack Eichel - 23 Sam Reinhart
17 Vladimir Sobotka - 10 Patrik Berglund / 22 Johan Larsson - 72 Tage Thompson
53 Jeff Skinner - 37 Casey Mittelstadt - 21 Kyle Okposo
81 Remi Elie / 28 Zemgus Girgensons - 71 Evan Rodrigues - 29 Jason Pominville

6 Marco Scandella - 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
19 Jake McCabe - 26 Rasmus Dahlin
82 Nathan Beaulieu - 8 Casey Nelson

40 Carter Hutton
35 Linus Ullmark

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