The Buffalo Sabres enter this weekend’s trio of games with 19 skaters who have yet to see action this preseason. As Rochester is set to open their camp on Monday, there is a chance some of these players may remain in the press box before heading up the 90.
Notable names among the group are Ales Kotalik, Shaone Morrisonn and Jordan Leopold. Brayden McNabb has also been held out thus far, but I would expect him to see action at some point this weekend. In fact, the three veterans listed above are all certain to see time before the team heads to Europe.
The complete list is as follows: Forwards; Riley Boychuk, Jochen Hecht (injured), Kotalik, Jacob Lagace, Maxime Legault, Jonathon Parker, Mike Ryan, Colin Stuart, Paul Szczechura, Shawn Sydlowski, Travis Turnbull and Phil Varone, defensemen; Nick Crawford, Corey Fienhage, Joe Finley, Leopold, Matt Mackenzie, McNabb and Morrisonn, goaltenders; Jeff Jakaitis and David Leggio.Fienhage, Lagace, Legault, Parker, Szydlowski, Turnbull and Varone are all just taking in practice as they wait to open camp with Ron Rolston and the Amerks. None of these players were signed with the intention of getting a look with the Sabres, at least not this season. That tweet from Szydlowski all but confirms that suspicion (s/t to 3MI). Ryan, Stuart and Szczechura are in the same boat, but they all will probably get a sniff at the final forward position before any moves are made.
Leggio and Jakaitis are both bound for the minors and probably don’t need any playing time in the preseason, no need to waste minutes when you can get Ryan Miller and Jhonas Enroth tuned up for the regular season.
Finley continues to intrigue me. Bringing him in for a tryout was such a harmless move it would make too much sense not to take a look at him. A 6-foot-8 behemoth, Finley still probably has some of the chops that earned him his first round draft status. Now, he certainly won’t be playing for the Sabres this season, but getting him some preseason action may be wise just to see where his game is after a few injury riddled seasons. I would give him a game before sending him off to Rochester.
The only thing working against Finley – and the other defensemen listed – is the tight roster space with the Amerks. There are nine defensemen vying for a roster spot with Rochester, four played the full season in Portland last year. This is where the ECHL affiliation could come in handy. One or two defensemen can be sent to Gwinnett to be stored for safekeeping.
As for the lineup this weekend, expect more of the same from Lindy Ruff. Max Pacioretty seems to think the Sabres are making a “playoff push in the preseason”, but it is just good coaching by Lindy Ruff. He has three new players, one of whom is playing a new position. They need as much time as possible to gel with their teammates in a game setting. Christian Ehrhoff, Ville Leino and Robyn Regehr will probably get one day off this weekend, but will continue to get big minutes as they adjust to the Sabres’ system.
Kevin Snow from sabres.com confirmed Buffalo goaltending for the next two nights. I would expect to see Miller back in net on Sunday with Drew MacIntrye possibly seeing one final game too.
With cuts looming on Monday, and a veteran-heavy lineup from Wednesday night, I would expect special teams to be a focal point as only a few pieces of the roster remain up in the air. Expect Crawford, Kotalik, Leopold, McNabb, Morrisonn and one of the fringe forwards to get at least one game this weekend, while the rest of the roster remains the same from the first two games.