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Sharpen Up: April 19, 2021 | 3-in-a-row against Boston begins tomorrow

Sabres look to build off Sunday's win over Pittsburgh

by Chris Ryndak @ChrisRyndak /

The Buffalo Sabres picked up a 4-2 win in the second half of their back-to-back set against the Pittsburgh Penguins over the weekend. Sunday's victory was one of their most impressive efforts to date. 

Sam Reinhart scored twice, while Arttu Ruotsalainen and Rasmus Asplund also added to their goal totals. Dustin Tokarski made back-to-back starts and made 34 saves on Sunday.

Mattias Samuelsson made his NHL debut, skating 14:12 with a shot on goal.

Buffalo's five-games-in-seven-days homestand continues tomorrow against the Boston Bruins. It's the first of three straight games against Boston. 

Faceoff is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on MSG, NBCSN and WGR 550. Pregame coverage on MSG will begin at 6. 

Here's what you need to know. 


A look back at yesterday

Video: Reinhart nets two, Sabres end Penguins' point streak

In Saturday's game, the Sabres fell behind early and weren't able to claw their way back. On Sunday, they took control early and never trailed. You can read all about it in our Postgame Report.  

Video: POSTGAME: Granato

"It looked like we were pressuring and we had kind of worn on them a little bit," Sabres interim coach Don Granato said. "They looked a little more tired than we did just in a quick review. And I mentioned that to our guys, the job they were doing to wear. 

"It made me think back to last night's game, just making that game hard all the way to the end might have had an affect tonight because we did have some good energy."

Video: POSTGAME: Reinhart

Reinhart's recorded his fourth multi-goal game of the season. Despite the shortened schedule, Reinhart is on pace to reach the 20-goal mark for the fourth consecutive season. He leads the team and is tied for 20th in the NHL with 17 goals this season.

Granato said he's seen Reinhart embrace his status as one of the more experienced forwards on a roster that has seemed to get younger with each passing day.

"He's engaged in a different way," Granato said. "He's not a real vocal guy. He's only vocal when necessary, typically. ... But now we see him, you know, more vocal, more talkative in between shifts working with guys on his line and other lines. That's nice to see."

Casey Mittelstadt recorded an assist and he now has totaled 10 points (7+3) in his last 11 games. 

Mittelstadt also won a career-high 15 faceoffs, going 15-for-21 (71.4 percent) on draws today.

The last Sabres player to take 20 or more faceoffs and win 70 percent or more of his draws in a game was Jack Eichel, who went 14-for-20 (70 percent) at Washington on December 21, 2018.


Samuelsson's debut

Video: POSTGAME: Samuelsson

Let's take this right from the Postgame Report:

Samuelsson became the fourth Sabres player to make his NHL debut this season, joining Dylan Cozens, Jacob Bryson, and Arttu Ruotsalainen. The defenseman skated 14:12 on a pair with Rasmus Ristolainen. 

Granato said his coaching staff had been planning to pair Samuelsson with Ristolainen for days prior to the recall because of the way Ristolainen embraced a mentorship role playing alongside Bryson. Bryson moved to a pair with Colin Miller on Sunday.

"We felt, 'This is a perfect situation. We can bring Mattias up, slide him in there, and Bryson is ready to go on his own, per se,'" Granato said. "And that was the case."

Tokarski making the most of his opportunity

Video: POSTGAME: Tokarski

In his six games played during the month of April, Tokarski has a .926 save percentage and a 2.68 goals-against average. Tokarski ranks fourth in the NHL with 201 saves since April 1.
He started the season fourth on the team's depth chart, but due to injuries and a trade, he's found himself thrust between the pipes as the team's starting netminder. 

"That's competitiveness and that's drive and determination," Granato said. "All those intangibles are what push him through and pushes anybody through. 

"Usually there's a little drop in focus, little subtleties maybe off in a second night. Maybe you're off your angle a little bit or rebound control. But none of that tonight. You would have thought it was the same as last night or maybe even better."

Linus Ullmark and Carter Hutton are both out with lower-body injuries. Ullmark could miss the rest of the season and there is no timetable yet established for Hutton's return.

Michael Houser has served as the backup goaltender.

Granato said the team would like to start integrating rookie Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen into the mix this week. Luukkonen, one of Buffalo's second-round picks in 2017 (54th overall), is currently on the taxi squad. He's yet to appear in an NHL game. 

Luukkonen's first start could very well come in one of this week's games against Boston. 

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