The blender worked well on a couple of levels last night. Buffalo bench boss Phil Housley blew up his forward lines while also making other some personnel adjustments, most notably on the powerplay and it worked as the Sabres beat the Minnesota Wild 5-4 in the shootout going 2/2 on the powerplay. Sam Reinhart was a game-changer last night with a goal and a primary assist and he also scored the deciding goal in the shootout. Reinhart was deservedly named the game's first star and he did what many thought he couldn't do--be a difference-maker and do so away from Jack Eichel. Almost. Eichel was the driving force behind Reinhart's tally but missed out on an assist because of a Minnesota turnover, but the narrative stands, Reinhart came through.
Despite getting secondary scoring last night, Housley doesn't look as if he was pleased with the lineup overall and word from the rink today had him switching up lines again.
Last night Eichel centered a line with Conor Sheary on his left and Kyle Okposo on his right and as pretty much everyone expected, that was abandoned in the third period. Housley got those two off of Eichel's line and replaced them with Jeff Skinner on the left and 36 yr. old Jason Pominville on the right. The ripple effects reach down to the other lines and it's a bit of a mishmash, especially after a win. Here's what we had to start the Minnesota game followed by the lines at practice today:
Of note, Johan Larsson was injured for the Wild game and looks to be back in the lineup.
Although Housley did have problems with his forward ranks, like Sheary and Okposo unable to work in on the top line, his powerplay units got the job done against a Wild team that had the sixth-best kill-rate in the league at 83.5%. The umbrella on his top unit really looked good with defenseman Rasmus Dahlin at the point, Eichel on the left wall and Mittelstadt on the right. Skinner and Reinhart worked the slot and the goal line. They broke through on Buffalo's second powerplay with Mittelstadt and Eichel working the puck around the boards to Dahline at the point. The 18 yr. old waltzed in and wristed one through with Reinhart providing the screen.
The Sabres second powerplay unit came through for the game's first goal as Evan Rodrigues took a couple of strides after a feed from Rasmus Ristolainen and sent a hard shot through with Okposo providing the screen.
Buffalo has a tough matchup tomorrow night against the Carolina Hurricanes who are tied with them in points but have played in one more game. Perhaps Housley believes he can squeeze more out of his forward group than he got last night. Or perhaps he's overthinking. We shall see.