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Sharpen Up: September 30, 2019

All the Sabres news you need to know on Monday

by Chris Ryndak @ChrisRyndak /

The regular season (and October) is almost upon us. Training camp is officially over and the Sabres front office has some big decisions to make when it comes to the opening night roster.

Buffalo opens up the Golden Season on Thursday in Pittsburgh. The first home game is Saturday against the Devils.

Here's what you need to know.



Looking back at Saturday

Video: Sabres top Penguins in shootout

The Sabres defeated Pittsburgh 3-2 in a shootout on Saturday in their final preseason game.

From the game recap…

Marco Scandella and Zemgus Girgensons scored goals to engineer the comeback, while Linus Ullmark turned in a 34-save effort. 

Casey Mittelstadt roofed a backhand shot behind Penguins goalie Matt Murray to clinch the win in the sixth round of the shootout.

Video: BUF@PIT: Mittelstadt puts home backhander to win SO

The game was a test for a Sabres lineup playing without four of its top five remaining scorers in Jack Eichel, Jeff Skinner, Sam Reinhart, and Rasmus Ristolainen. The Penguins dressed most of their usual lineup, from superstar forwards Sidney Crosby (who left the game due to injury) and Evgeni Malkin to defenseman Kris Letang.

Video: POSTGAME: Krueger

Video: POSTGAME: Mittelstadt 

Video: POSTGAME: Ullmark 

Video: POSTGAME: Gilmour

Ullmark saved the game with a flurry of stops at the end of the overtime period, including a put-back attempt from forward Jake Guentzel that the goaltender stuffed with his left pad. It was one of a few instances in which Ullmark had to fight through traffic to make stops during the extended outing.

"It's basically trying to have the vision, my eyes on the puck," he said. "That's the most important thing. Second comes to positioning. If I can see the puck, I can make a save. If I'm not in a right position, I can get there if I can see where a puck is going. If the puck gets lost, that's when I really need to be in a good position to just play the percentage."

Read the full recap here.


Sunday's practice

Buffalo was right back to work Sunday morning. They started the day with a roster move: Defenseman William Borgen was assigned to Rochester. 

We then took a closer look at the camp Zemgus Girgensons has had.  

Girgensons is wrapping up his seventh training camp with the Sabres, a span in which he's had to impress upon five different head coaches. He entered this season with two objectives: to show Krueger his ability to play responsibly on defense, and to reignite his confidence on offense. 

If Krueger's assessment of Girgensons' camp on Sunday is any indication, he's been successful to both of those ends thus far.

"Yesterday he was outstanding," Krueger said. "Number one, being a player who truly executes within the framework of what we need defensively, and he is a threat to score. 

"… And he always works 100 percent from the start to the end of practice, so that gives him quite a consistent game during the games. You know exactly what you're getting from him shift in and shift out. [He is] a very important body in our group."

Video: TRAINING CAMP: Krueger

Girgensons was tasked with one of the heaviest defensive workloads in the NHL last season. According to Natural, just 15.93 percent of his five-on-five faceoffs were taken in the offensive zone - the lowest mark in the NHL. His 172:58 of shorthanded ice time ranked 16th among league forwards.

Though he prides himself on that defensive game, Girgensons expressed a belief that Krueger's system - which allows players to play instinctually on offense - will allow him to recapture his confidence on offense. He scored 30 points (15+15) in 61 games as a 21-year-old in 2014-15 but has fluctuated between 15 and 18 points since.

"We've definitely been given, by the coach, a little bit more freedom," he said. "Just kind of play the game, think on your own, work with your linemates, read off each other. I think that's the way hockey should be. It's great to see guys are getting more creative. 

"… In the offensive zone, it's more up to players. Be creative, work for each other, create space. It's fun playing hockey like that."  

Read the full story here. 


Injury update

More from the Ice Level Practice Report… 

Jake McCabe returned to practice after missing the final two preseason games with an upper-body injury. Conor Sheary (lower body) did not practice, though Krueger said he did skate on his own.

"He remains day-to-day," Krueger said. "He had a good skate this morning. We're just keeping him out of the group. We'll re-evaluate that tomorrow morning."

Krueger also issured an update on defenseman Brandon Montour, who has been out since Sept. 19 with a hand injury.

"We're quite optimistic with the way it's evolving, but you want to be careful with those things," Krueger said. "He's able to skate now already and that's gone well, so we're pleased to build on that to keep his legs active. His re-entry will be quicker with that injury than it would be if it were anything lower body.

"Again, let's just concentrate on getting this group started. Brandon's working with our outstanding rehab staff to get back to us as soon as possible. But we'd like to see him within the next few weeks."

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