By: David Kolb
BUFFALO SABRES (0-1-0) @ EDMONTON OILERS (2-0-0)
Tonight the Sabres head north of the border to face the Edmonton Oilers at Rogers Place. Buffalo will be without first-liner Evander Kane, as he sustained a rib injury in the season-opener, while Jack Eichel is still sidelined with a high ankle sprain. The Sabres begin play looking for their first win of the season, while the Oilers try and stay perfect after beginning the season at 2-0.
SABRES KEYS FOR SUCCESS
With the Kane injury, the Sabres’ injury woes were compounded as they will now be without two of their most prolific scorers (Eichel, Kane) for a prolonged undetermined period of time. The good news is that Dmitry Kulikov and Kyle Okposo — two key offseason acquisitions — and Ryan O’Reilly will be back in the lineup.
Matt Moulson scored his first goal of the season on Thursday, with assists coming from Rasmus Ristolainen and Sam Reinhart. That trio needs to have an impact offensively for the Sabres to keep up with the high-scoring Oilers.
KEYS TO STOPPING THE OILERS
With the return of Okposo and O’Reilly, the Sabres hope to cash in on the power play more often than last season. The team nearly worked on the power play for the entire practice on Saturday, and it may help getting the Sabres past the Oilers, if they can play effectively 5-on-5.
It will be important to possess the puck in the offensive zone as often as possible for the Sabres, keeping the puck away from the Oilers’ high-skill forwards. More importantly, being prepared for the Oilers’ lightning fast transition from defense to offense will help the Sabres diminish the ferocious Edmonton attack.
Connor McDavid is clearly not suffering from any sophomore slump, tallying three goals and three assists for six points in his first two games of the season. McDavid needs to be watched at all times, and coach Dan Bylsma will look to the defensive pairing of Kulikov and Cody Franson to play opposite of McDavid as often as possible.