It seems safe to assume that Sam Reinhart will be seeing significant minutes in each of the Sabres’ preseason contests. The second overall selection saw action in a second-straight game and had the opportunity to skate in a second line role for the third period.
After opening the game on the “third” line with Chris Stewart and Nicolas Deslauriers, Reinhart was moved between Zac Dalpe and Brian Gionta for the final stanza. He didn’t produce any points but was adept with the puck and played a sound game. While he may not necessarily be ready for the NHL, Reinhart has been displaying the skills that set him apart in the eyes of Tim Murray and the Sabres scouts.
His most impressive play came in the third period when he warded off a forechecker and exhibited enough patience to create time and space and make an outlet pass to Andrej Meszaros behind the Sabres goal. It was a small play that may have gone unnoticed but it was an impressive one.
Reinhart’s play wasn’t the lone bright spot on the night as Jhonas Enroth turned in a 34-save gem in the 2-0 victory. Enroth was sound throughout the game – particularly in the second when the Hurricanes established a wide advantage in shots. There were no signs of injury from Enroth and I look forward to seeing how Michal Neuvirth responds in the battle for Buffalo’s starting job.
The Matt Moulson-Tyler Ennis-Drew Stafford line was far and away the most impressive trio in the entire game. They established possession early in the night and maintained an advantage throughout. They created both Buffalo goals, the first on a nifty passing play that was finished by Stafford and the second off Ennis’ stick with assistance from Drew MacIntyre’s skate and blocker.
Buffalo’s win came with a roster heavy with players who will likely have an opening night roster spot. Mikhail Grigorenko, Dalpe, Jake McCabe and Brendan Lemieux are likely the only players destined for other locales aside from Sam Reinhart’s ultimate destination. Mark Pysyk’s injury likely means he will start the year in Rochester. Otherwise the roster was pretty close to what the team will look like in October. It’s hard to take too much away from a preseason game but there are certainly things to like about the players Buffalo will enter the season with.
In the Crease: Enroth’s game was pristine. Rarely can you find issue with a shutout and that is the case tonight. I only counted a pair of questionable rebounds with one coming off a dead angle shot that left him very little to do aside from simply ensuring the puck stayed out. When Enroth is able to get big and control his movements he is a stellar goaltender. Seeing him stay composed in a game when his team was outshot heartily is a great sign as I expect that to happen quite a bit this season.
- Mikhail Grigorenko was relegated to fourth line duties but showed well with his ice time. I think his role was borne from the other centers that were placed in the lineup and Ted Nolan’s desire to see him play a lot in the preseason. The early returns on Grigorenko have been good and he reinforced that tonight. He’s been strong on the puck and terrific in support. I like that Nolan kept in the lineup and I can accept his role given that Ennis, Girgensons and Reinhart were also dressed.
- Grigorenko made a terrific pass off the side board to find Patrick Kaleta for a one-timer in the slot in the third. It showed great vision and I’d love to see Grigorenko get a serious look with goal scoring forwards for the duration of the preseason to provide the coaches with a true barometer of where he should be playing.
- Mark Pysyk’s injury afforded Jake McCabe a few more minutes of ice and he responded with a quality showing. I thought he and Tyler Myers both played well at both ends of the ice with good reads at the right times. McCabe will benefit in a similar manner to Rasmus Ristolainen with a full year in Rochester under his belt this year.
- Jordan Staal’s injury didn’t look good from the moment he hit the ice. He and Josh Gorges tangled at the Buffalo blueline and fell over each other. Staal’s right leg was trapped under both bodies and it was difficult to tell if his ankle was rolled up on or if his skate caught in the ice and then he and Gorges rolled up on the ankle. If it was the latter I would expect the injury to require a lengthy recovery.