Buffalo, N.Y. (WGR 550) - The Buffalo Sabres could have a couple of new faces in the lineup for Game 2 of their back-to-back with the New York Islanders on Tuesday.
Ralph Krueger said that defensemen Jake McCabe and Brandon Montour have been cleared to play.
Dylan Cozens and Curtis Lazar are close to coming off the NHL’s COVID-19 Protocols list.
“We had them on a rehab skate this morning and that was a positive first ice touch," Krueger said after Tuesday's optional morning skate.
Krueger declined to give any lineup news until after warm up.
Henri Jokiharju has struggled all season long for the Sabres. The defenseman is only 21-years-old, and played so well last year after being acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks. This is a kid that was drafted 29th overall by the Hawks in 2017, and Krueger doesn’t think going to the Rochester Americans would help his game or boost his confidence.
“We think 'Joki' [Jokiharju] is an important part of our group here and at his age, especially as a defenseman, you will have your waves that you need to ride. We’re happy to have him ride that wave here," Krueger said.
“He’s an excellent practice player, he works really hard at his game, he’s very coachable and I’m extremely confident that he is and will remain an important part of our game.”
For the most part, defense wasn’t the Sabres' problem in the 3-1 loss to the Islanders on Monday. Will Borgen and Brandon Davidson both played their first games this season and as a pair, played pretty well. Borgen especially was good in all aspects of the game.
The problem, of course, was the Sabres had no shots and produced no scoring chances in the third period. Buffalo got spotty goaltending, and got very little production from their best players.
That’s been happening all season and until it changes, the Sabres will remain near the bottom of the East Division.
Victor Olofsson scored Buffalo’s only goal on Monday, and has a career-high seven-game point streak, scoring three goals and five assists for eight points.
That goal was a power play goal, giving the Sabres goals in six straight games with the extra man. They’re 10-of-24, which is 41.7%. Overall, the Sabres are fifth in the league on the power play at 31.7%. The penalty killing is 13th at 80%.
Losing three of four games, all at home, have the Sabres 25th in the NHL with a .455 points percentage.
Linus Ullmark has given up three goals in five of his seven starts, and that simply isn’t good enough.
The Islanders have points in seven straight games, going 4-0-3. They too have had recent success on the power play, going 4-for-6 in their last five games. New York is 14th overall at 22.7%. Their penalty kill is 16th.
Thanks to Semyon Varlamov and a very disciplined system, the Islanders are fifth in the NHL with a goals-against average of 2.36. Varlamov is fourth in the league with a goals-against average of 1.89. His save percentage of .931 ranks sixth.
Head coach Barry Trotz wouldn’t say for sure if Varlamov is playing, but it seems like maybe he won’t. That would put Ilya Sorokin in goal for his fourth NHL game.
Trotz did say that Anthony Beauvillier will be back. He’s missed nine games with a lower-body injury.
Mathew Barzal has a career-high points streak of his own. In nine games, he’s scored four goals and seven assists for 11 points.
Jean-Gabriel Pageau has four goals in his last five games.
The Islanders have outscored their opponents 17-11 in the first period, while the Sabres have been outscored 11-5. On the flip side, Buffalo has outscored its opponents in the second period by 14-11. The Islanders have been outscored in the second, 15-6.
The Sabres' two home postponed games against the Washington Capitals have been officially rescheduled. One will be played March 15 at 7 p.m. EST, while the other will be played April 9 at 7 p.m. ET.
Join Schopp and the Bulldog for pregame coverage starting at 6 p.m. EST when they’ll be joined by Krueger, Borgen and Davidson.