Five down. One to go.
For the Buffalo Sabres, there is one last opportunity to make a lasting impression on head coach Ralph Krueger and GM Jason Botterill.
This afternoon, the Sabres will conclude the 2019 exhibition season against the Penguins .
Krueger's roster is seemingly 85% complete at this momemt which means that today's game is the last chance for bubble-riding forwards and defenseman to make a strong case for themselves as to why they have earned their NHL stripes for the beginning of the season.
A glance at Friday's practice lines and trios wil tell you which Sabres players should be very concerned right now:
Olofsson - Eichel - Reinhart
Skinner - Johansson - Sobotka
Wilson - Rodrigues - Okposo
Vesey - Mittelstadt - Sheary
Elie - Asplund - Thompson
Girgensons - Larsson -Lazar
Dahlin - Ristolainen
Scandella - Miller
are my final roster selections.
Here is Buffalo's roster for the preseason finale.
On Friday, Krueger stressed the importance of Saturday's tilt with the Penguins.
"Tomorrow's definitely going to be a game where, first of all, there's going to be some internal competition, head-to-heads just to see what players (perform) in difficult circumstances, how they can produce within that framework that we're trying to work at here," Krueger said.
"What we want to see tomorrow is a continued growth in our game. Consistency. I thought we've been a little in consistent. We haven't pulled it through 60 minutes really as of late. We'd like to see a solid 60-minute defensive performance and, again, continue to work hard the way they have been, and we'll automatically grow."
Today's game may well be the swan song for veteran forwards Zemgus Girgensons and Johan Larsson.
There are 18 forwards still remaining in camp and five of them will be gone by Sunday night.
The off season additions of Jimmy Vesey and Marcus Johansson has immediately bolstered the top six forward group. Thus, there are middle-of-the-roster forwards that have been pushed to the bottom of the roster. Girgensons and Larsson are seriously impacted by the additions of Vesey, Johansson.
Adding more pressure in the forward ranks is the impressive play of youngsters Rasmus Asplund, Tage Thompson and Curtis Lazar.
Krueger has said that his goal is sto get more offensive production from all of his forward trios, not just the top six.
Asplund, Thompson and Lazar have represented more favorably in that way in the exhibition games that they have played. Thompson and Lazar also kill penalties, which Girgensons and Larsson excel at. There is an argument to be made for Botterill and Krueger to trade away old school Sabres Girgensons and Larsson, whom have been Sabres for the past six seasons.
You can save you "Trade Vlad Sobotka"
tirades. Vlad The Impaler will not be leaving Buffalo--- in the short term. Sobotka will be type cast as the centerman on line four and he will continue in his penalty killing role.
When the music stops, which defensemen will still be in Buffalo?
Here are my defensemen that will begin the season with the Sabres:
Brandon Montour, Rasmus Dahlin, Rasmus Ristolainen, Colin Miller, Jake McCabe, Hank Jokiharju, John Gilmour.
Gilmour has played his way on to the Buffalo roster where he will be the number 7 D. The kid has played brilliantly at 5v5 in the exhibition games he has participated in. He's an excellent skater who jumps and joins the rush. He has an excellent shot and can defend in all three zones. Gilmour scored 20 goals for AHL Hartfird last season and I see no reason why he cannot score 8-10 goals in the NHL. His game transplates perfectly to the NHL.
I see Marco Scandella and Casey Nelson as the odd men out. I see Scandella being traded (Philly) and Nelson being sent to Rochester.
For the past fifteen seasons, I have been covering the Sabres for Hockeybuzz.com. I can honestly say that I cannot recall another training cam in that fifteen year stretch that was more competive and more demanding on each and every player.
Spend ten minutes around Ralph Krueger. You will feel his passion for playing connected and winning radiating off his body. Krueger didn't come to Buffalo for sh*ts and giggles. He accepted the Buffalo Sabres head coaching job because he feels strongly about this opportunity to win a Stanley Cup. Krueger's first training camp has been tough but fair. He and his assistant coaches are teachers and mentors. A month ago, the coaching staff set the standards high. They have been holding all players to the highest of standards. All due respect, but this has not been a Phil Houlsey nor Dan Bylsma training camp. Krueger is intensely prepared each and every practice session and he demands his players to play the each shift as connected five-man clusters.
Botterill has imported several new forwards and defensemen which has placed the burden of responsibility on veterans to prove that they still belong on the Sabres roster.
Botterill can ill afford to have his team miss the playoffs for a ninth season in a row.
If you are following me on Twitter @SabresBuzz then Thank You. I appreciate and interact with all of my 16,000+ followers.
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Do it now. You won't regret the decision.