After putting up 53 shots on goal Thursday night in a loss to Pittsburgh, the Buffalo Sabres will be looking to continue putting the puck on goal – but also being more selective in the shots they take.
Buffalo will wrap up a back-to-back set and a three-games-in-four-nights stretch on Friday when they host the Philadelphia Flyers at First Niagara Center.
The Sabres ended up with three goals on those 53 shots on Thursday and have combined for 93 shots in their past two games. Buffalo was credited with 83 shot attempts in Thursday’s game alone.
“It all stems from getting the puck to the net and playing in the middle portion of the ice,” defenseman Cody Franson said. “Sometimes that’s not easy to do depending on the team you’re playing, but I thought we did a pretty good job of getting the puck there and getting some quality chances.”
However, despite the number of shots, Sabres coach Dan Bylsma would like to see better shot selection from his players.
“Last night, we took some shots that the goalie gloved that I thought were not good shots. They have them whistles and opportunities to change,” Bylsma said Friday morning. “So it’s not just the pure volume of shots that you’re looking for.
“…We’re still learning how to be effective with our shot selection. We’re still learning how to capitalize on the puck getting to the net.”
For alternate captain Ryan O'Reilly, who had four shots in the 4-3 loss to the Penguins, he believes putting bodies in and around the crease when those shots start coming in will lead to more goals.
“We have to get more traffic and that’s something we’re going to have to do again tonight,” he said. “We need results and it’s got to start with us in front and making it hard for the goalie to see.”
Tyler Ennis, who has been on O’Reilly’s line for much of this season, will miss his second-straight game with a lower-body injury. He partook in the optional morning skate, but after doing some skating on his own, left the ice early with the training staff.
O’Reilly played with Nicolas Deslauriers and Marcus Foligno on Thursday, two wings who, in Bylsma’s eyes, need to create havoc in the blue paint in order to be truly effective. The line generated Buffalo’s second goal of the night that tied the game at the end of the first period.
“We’re talking about two heavy, big-bodied wingers that are going to crash and need to crash and need to bang and play a physical game. In many aspects, they were that,” Bylsma said. “Even just in how we scored the goal, it’s an offensive zone crash-and-bang shift.”
No matter who’s been on O’Reilly’s line, he’s found ways to be productive.
He enters Friday’s game on a four-game point streak during which he has recorded seven points (2+5) while averaging 20:27 of ice time per game.
His average ice time this season (21:05) is third among all forwards behind only Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall of Edmonton.
Ryan O’Reilly is tied for second in the League with 235 faceoffs taken, accounting for 38.7 percent of Buffalo’s total faceoffs. O’Reilly’s faceoff percentage (59.6 percent) ranks him first among those who have taken at least 200 draws.
The Tops Gamenight pregame show begins at 6:30 p.m. on MSG-B and Bell TV. The game can also be heard live on WGR 550 with puck drop scheduled for just after 7 p.m.
The Sabres will be seeing the Flyers for the second time in four days. They defeated Philadelphia 4-3 at Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday thanks to Zemgus Girgensons’ breakaway goal in overtime. Buffalo outshot the Flyers 40-33.
“Having seen them a couple days ago, you’ve got a feel for what they’re bringing at you,” Franson said. “But at the same time, Philly’s a great team and anytime you play those guys, it’s a tough night.”
Linus Ullmark will start his second game for the Sabres. The 22-year-old rookie made his first start on Saturday, stopping 24 of 28 shots in a 4-3 loss at home to the Devils.
Bylsma said the rest of the lineup will be a game-time decision.