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Sharpen Up: March 10, 2017

by Chris Ryndak @ChrisRyndak / Sabres.com

Let's get right back at it. The Sabres are in Columbus tonight for their first game of the season against the Blue Jackets. They haven't seen each other since April 8 of last season when Buffalo won 4-1. But they'll play twice this weekend: tonight and then tomorrow at KeyBank Center.

Here's what you need to know.

The Sabres took part in a hard practice here in Buffalo before heading out to Ohio. 

From yesterday's practice report:

Video: Sabres in :90 (3/9/17)

"Bring your work boots today, that was pretty much the message," forward Marcus Foligno said. "It was a good practice."

The loss to Philadelphia on Tuesday was Buffalo's seventh in its last eight games. The Sabres were able to hang around the Wild Card race for much of that stretch, but that game made the climb steeper than ever: They sit seven points back of a playoff spot with 15 games remaining. 

Object No. 1, of course, is still to win as many games and make up as much ground in the standings as possible. But this final stretch of the season also stands as an opportunity for a young team to learn from its mistakes and take a step toward fully establishing the identity it's shown in spurts this season.

Video: BYLSMA: After Practice

"I think with 15 games you should have no misunderstanding and you should have no questions about who the Buffalo Sabres are and how they play," coach Dan Bylsma said. "That's something we haven't gotten to. It's something that, with the 15 games that we are playing, we need to take as a challenge to establish."

So, what is the Sabres' identity? In spite of their most recent loss, the players say it actually does start with their work ethic. 

"I think our identity is that we're a hardworking team," defenseman Cody Franson said. "We had a hiccup in the last few, but I think when teams think of playing Buffalo, you're going to have to work. We've got holes in our game like everybody else does. We're a work in progress more so than we should be right now."

"We're physical, we're quick, we're tenacious," Foligno said. "We're mostly in the offensive zone a lot. It's physical hockey. It's got to be fast hockey. It's a team that doesn't give up. I think we try to go right to the end. Obviously, we've had some slow starts, some bad periods. But it's got to be a full 60 from us. That's when we're at our best."


Tonight's matchup (courtesy of @SabresPR)

The Sabres have won three of the last four contests played against the Blue Jackets in Columbus.

Evander Kane has recorded a point in five straight games against the Blue Jackets entering tonight's game. He has a total of seven points (4+3) during the course of those five games. Kane also has 20 points (12+8) in his last 21 games, including 10 goals in his last 14.

Jack Eichel has at least a point in each of his three career games against Columbus, having totaled four points (1+3) in those games. Eichel enters tonight's game on a career-best 11-game point streak (5+11). It's the longest active streak in the NHL and the longest by a Sabre since Tim Connolly tallied points in 16 straight from Dec. 23, 2009 to Jan. 25, 2010.

And with a point tonight, Eichel would tie Mikael Granlund's 12-game streak (Jan. 12 to Feb. 4) for the longest point streak in the NHL this season.

Ryan O'Reilly has recorded seven points (3+4) during his current five-game point streak.

Matt Moulson has four points (1+3) in his last three games against the Blue Jackets.

Rasmus Ristolainen has a point in 12 of his last 17 games (1+11) and recorded three points (1+2) in three games against Columbus last season.

Robin Lehner is 4-1-0 in five career games against Columbus with a 1.60 goals against average and a .956 save percentage.

 

Bowman Cup slated for March 22

The 2017 Scotty Bowman Showcase consists of three all-star hockey games between players from Buffalo, N.Y. and their rivals from Rochester, N.Y. Each game will consist of two 22-minute halves. This will be the 13th year of the showcase. 
 
The first game will begin at 5 p.m. with high school juniors from the two cities facing off against one another for the Tim Horton Memorial Cup. 

The next game will take place at 7 p.m. between high school seniors from each city. The winner of the second game will be awarded the Scotty Bowman Cup. This award and the event are named after the legendary Scotty Bowman, the winningest coach in NHL history. Bowman will be in attendance to present the Bowman Cup to the victorious senior team. 

The third game will feature players from Buffalo and Rochester who play prep school or junior hockey, either locally or elsewhere. The players will be split up into even teams and will face off for the Rick Martin Memorial Cup at 9 p.m.

Admission for the games is $5.

For more information please click here. To nominate a player for consideration, please contact Sabres Youth Hockey Manager (and Office Bubblie Hockey Tournament Champion) Ed Grudzinski by phone at 716-855-4174 or via email at ed.grudzinski@sabres.com.

 

On this day back in 2012…

Marcus Foligno scored his first NHL goal in a 4-3 shootout win at Ottawa. 


On tap today

We'll have full gameday coverage from Columbus. Jourdon LaBarber and Brian Duff are on the scene so stay with Sabres.com for any updates.

Then tune in to the Tops Game Night pregame show starting at 6:30 p.m. on MSG. Brad May is out celebrating the 10th anniversary of his Stanley Cup championship with the Anaheim Ducks, so Andrew Peters will be filling in on the broadcast. Dan Dunleavy and Rob Ray will have the call just after 7. You can also listen to the game live on WGR 550.

And don't forget that we'll be premiering a new Beyond Blue and Gold episode tomorrow night, which will take up the full first intermission on MSG. Speaking of 10-year anniversaries, this one will focus on the brawl with Ottawa back in 2007. The Instigators and our social media channels will have another exclusive preview as well as a deleted scene for you today.

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