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Sharpen Up: February 21, 2019

Here's what you need to know before tonight's game against Tampa

by Chris Ryndak @ChrisRyndak /

It's a game night in Tampa as the Sabres take on the Lightning on the road. Faceoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on MSG and WGR 550. Our pregame coverage will begin with GMC Game Night at 7 on MSG. 

We'll also have updates from the morning skate here on so stay tuned for all that.

Here's what you need to know. 


Botterill addresses the state of the team

General manager Jason Botterill spoke with the media yesterday in Tampa.

Here are the highlights of what he had to say:


You can watch his full comments here:


And here's more from our written recap, which you can read here

With the deadline less than a week away (3 p.m. on Monday), the Sabres general manager affirmed that he's continuing to pursue options to improve the roster while also expressing confidence in the current players and coaching staff. 

"We've had a lot of conversations going on," Botterill said. "Whether those things come to fruition over the next couple days, it's always hard to predict. As I think we saw last year, sometimes you look at the draft and then things can move into July 1 and things can move into the summer. 

"... We are always looking to make moves that are going to help our group," Botterill said. "I'd also say we're going to trust our players, we're going to trust our group."

Nine of the Sabres' victories during their 10-game streak in November were decided by one goal. All five of their losses in February have been one-goal games in the third period; they're simply coming out on the other side. 

"We're putting players in roles that they're not used to," Botterill said. "Some nights they're going to succeed in those roles, sometimes they're not. I think you've seen our blueprint. You've seen when we played well, when we've played assertive in the offensive zone, we've gotten to the front of the net in the offensive zone, we've played good defensive hockey, we've received results. … We haven't done that enough on a consistent basis."

Botterill complimented coach Phil Housley and his staff for their communication with players throughout the season. 

"I've liked the interaction, two-way interaction, with our players coming to coaches," he said. "You look at after practice, on the ice, off the ice, our coaches interacting with our players from a standpoint of their individual games and as a team concept, to me those are the things that are at least allowing us to be in the situation to win games in the third period."

You can read the full story here


Yesterday's practice

Video: AFTER PRACTICE: Housley

More from the Ice Level Practice Report

Matt Hunwick (lower body) was back on the ice after taking a precautionary day off in Florida on Wednesday. Housley continued to tweak his forward lines, moving Evan Rodrigues up to the right wing alongside Skinner and former Boston University linemate Jack Eichel.

Here's how the Sabres lined up on Wednesday:
53 Jeff Skinner - 9 Jack Eichel - 71 Evan Rodrigues
43 Conor Sheary - 37 Casey Mittelstadt - 23 Sam Reinhart
28 Zemgus Girgensons - 22 Johan Larsson - 29 Jason Pominville
49 C.J. Smith - 17 Vladimir Sobotka - 72 Tage Thompson

19 Jake McCabe - 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
26 Rasmus Dahlin - 4 Zach Bogosian
82 Nathan Beaulieu - 8 Casey Nelson
24 Lawrence Pilut - 48 Matt Hunwick

40 Carter Hutton
35 Linus Ullmark

Read more on the Eichel/Rodrigues connection here. 

Tonight's matchup

From the Game Notes…

  • This is the fourth and final meeting between the Sabres and Lightning this season.
  • Last meeting: Tampa Bay defeated Buffalo 5-3 in Buffalo on Jan. 12
  • The Sabres are 3-6-1 in their last 10 games vs. the Lightning; 2-8-0 on the road.


  • With a win tonight, the Sabres would split the season series with the Lightning for the second consecutive season.


  • Sam Reinhart has recorded six points (5+1) in his last six games against the Lightning, including points in each of the three meetings this season (3+1).
  • Reinhart has totaled 18 points (7+11) in his last 18 road games and enters tonight's game on a three-game point streak (1+2).


  • Tage Thompson has scored in both of the last two games between these teams.
  • Jack Eichel has totaled six points (1+5) in six career visits to Amalie Arena.
  • Casey Mittelstadt has a point in both of his career road games against Tampa Bay (1+1), including his first NHL goal on April 6, 2018.
  • Rasmus Ristolainen has recorded an assist each of his last three road games against the Lightning.

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