Grading the Sabres: The new core

The next group of player grades for the Sabres is comprised of young talent and new faces. This group either arrived in Buffalo this season, or are part of the burgeoning youth movement on the depth chart.

Tyler Ennis – A-

This might seem like a high grade to some, it may even look like a low grade for some. I say it is adequate with the understanding that Ennis still has room to grow, especially as a center. The ankle injury that sidelined him for 34 games was a devastating blow to his progress and the Sabres in general.

While he was sniffing at a point per game pace, it was basically just in the second half. That bodes quite well for a player that is looking like he could be a major weapon for the Sabres in the coming seasons. I still think Ennis needs to add a little size, but he certainly doesn’t need to change anything on the offensive side of his game.

Tyler Ennis and Cody Hodgson should prove to be the centers of the future in Buffalo

Cody Hodgson- C+

I like Hodgson’s game. His numbers weren’t ideal, but he showed some traits that should make him a dangerous piece of the puzzle moving forward. His brief time here was highlighted by a few nice goals and assists, obviously putting him with scorers will be a necessity. Depending on what kind of summer he has could mean that he comes to camp has the incumbent number two center (behind Ennis) with the chance to be a key contributor for next year.

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Tropp recall keeps sandpaper in Sabres’ lineup

With Cody McCormick out for tonight’s game against New Jersey – and potentially more games depending on the severity of his injury – the Sabres recalled Corey Tropp from Rochester.

This was the easy choice for Darcy Regier to make. Tropp had a fine showing in his first four NHL contests and even managed to find the score sheet with a goal and an assist in his first call up. Many fans were clamoring for Zack Kassian to be the replacement for McCormick, but Tropp was the right call.

Considering there isn’t much information out there regarding McCormick’s injury, it is impossible to speculate how much time he will miss. For all we know, he will be back on the wing for Friday’s game. Worst case is that he misses extended time and the Sabres are without their primary tough guy. Obviously the biggest issue that would impact is the expected response from the Sabres when the Bruins roll into town next Wednesday. While Tropp isn’t afraid to drop his gloves, he is not the fighter that McCormick is. Continue reading

The Morning Skate: Sabres look to extend Northeast Division lead at home

The Sabres return to First Niagara Center today to face the New Jersey Devils, a team fresh off a trip to Boston last night.

Buffalo remains without Ryan Miller and it appears that Cody McCormick may miss the game due to an injury sustained in Montreal. While no word has come down at this time the Sabres have two options, call up a forward from Rochester or dress seven defensemen. Obviously option two is far more attractive, especially considering the play of Corey Tropp in his four-game debut. Many fans are clamoring to see Zack Kassian, but it may be too soon for that. Marc-Andre Gragnani could end up on the wing, but that just seems like a monumental waste. However, he is probably better served in that position than any other.

The Devils fell to the Bruins thanks to a three-goal third period from the B’s. New Jersey is currently on the outside looking in at the Eastern Conference ‘s top eight. Their position is due, in large part, to a shoddy start and an injury to Marty Brodeur. Of course, Brodeur wasn’t stellar in his time before or after the injury either, so it could be a case of an aging core playing in front of an aged star.

Considering Johan Hedberg played in Boston, it should be expected that Brodeur will be in net for the Devils this evening. The Sabres will counter with Jhonas Enroth as he is expected to see the lion’s share of work until Ryan Miller returns.

Highlighted Matchup

Zack Parise vs. Thomas Vanek. Both were NCAA superstars, both the Devils and Sabres offense run through them, respectively. Vanek has been on fire all season, Parise has decent numbers through 16 games. It will be interesting to see which player comes out on top tonight.

Projected Goaltenders

BUF: Jhonas Enroth 8GP, 6-0-0, 1.76 GAA, .942 SV%

NJD: Martin Brodeur 6GP, 2-3-0, 3.02 GAA, .880 SV%

Last Game

3/26/2011, HSBC Arena, Sabres 2 – Devils 0

 

Kaleta suspension creates balance with Sabres lines

Losing Patrick Kaleta did not seem to be the type medicine a slumping Sabres team needed. However, it seems as if the line jumble created after the suspension may have been exactly what the doctor ordered.

Brad Boyes and Nathan Gerbe could be seeing a lot more time together in the future.

Losing Kaleta forced Buffalo to recall Corey Tropp from Rochester and move Brad Boyes to the wing with Nathan Gerbe and Paul Gaustad. Tropp skated with Matt Ellis and Cody McCormick. Tropp was effective in a limited role and should see a few more minutes over the next three games.

Boyes stood out more in his new role than Tropp did. Obviously he is playing in a more prominent role both on the power play and even strength. But he certainly looked right at home with two players who are more offensively gifted than his previous linemates. Continue reading