Sabres Notebook: Bounce-back game for the third line - The Buffalo News

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Sabres Notebook: Bounce-back game for the third line

Marcus Foligno followed his shot. He skated hard down low, picking up the puck as it went behind the net, circled back and fed Brian Gionta for a timely second-period goal.

It was the 100th career NHL point for Foligno and put an exclamation point on a rebound game for the line of Gionta, Foligno and Johan Larsson.

The trio was on the ice for two goals against Tuesday as the Sabres earned a 5-4 win in Ottawa. The third line wanted to be better on Thursday night, and they arguably were the best line on the ice throughout Buffalo's 4-3 win over the New York Rangers in KeyBank Center.

"We really had a rebound game from Ottawa," Foligno said. "We still feel like the effort’s always there every night but we were just on the bad end of some things. Again resiliency and hard work, that’s what our line’s about. Making sure that we’re shutting down their players five-on-five. We did that tonight."

Shutting down the Rangers often meant matching up against the line of Rick Nash, Jimmy Vesey and Kevin Hayes.

"It's tough to take away their speed, tough to take away their attack and they did it tonight by playing with the puck, playing in the offensive zone and were effective at it," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said.

The third line had possession in the offensive zone, moved the puck well and crashed the net. They often took over for Jack Eichel's line, piling on the zone time which wore on the Rangers. New York may be the highest scoring team in the NHL at the moment, but they can't score if they're hemmed into their own end shift after shift.

"The amount of time you can limit yourself being in the D-zone or playing defense off the rush, that’s when we’re at our best," Gionta said. "When we’re forechecking, when we’re creating chances, when we’re playing down low. That’s where we want to play all night."

The line combined for two goals, including the opening goal 18 seconds into the game when Jake McCabe's long-distance dump-in went off Larsson and past Rangers' goalie Henrik Lundqvist. They had five shots and four hits, but their value went beyond the official stats.

"In Ottawa we were just pushing pucks around and not really taking care of it," Foligno said. "Tonight there were some good entries and we made some good plays down low. We look at our game, we change it and it's for the better.

"I think tonight in general for the whole team it was just a better effort," Foligno said. "The first period, first time playing them, was maybe a little feeling out period. Second and third period we kind of took over that game and I think it was our best cycling and possession in the offensive zone."

The goals for the line are pretty darn nice, too. Even if Larsson's was a fluky one. The Sabres will take goals anyway they can and the third line knows it needs to contribute.

"Our line, if we’re doing that and scoring it takes so much pressure off the top two lines," Foligno said. "That creates a full team. Down the road we need a third line that can contribute and we’re doing it right now."

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For Foligno, the 100th point was a nice milestone to reach.

"Individually you like to set goals for yourself in points," Foligno said. "On to the next 100 I hope."

If he keeps crashing to the net, he's likely to rack up more points. When the man with the nickname "Moose" is determined down low, he can be a force to reckon with.

"When he’s at his best he’s moving," Gionta said. "He’s a big body. You can’t get him off the puck. Heavy on the forecheck, things like that. Part of what he does good is going hard to the net."

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Wheatfield native Adam Clendening recorded his third assist of the season, helping to set up Rick Nash's power play goal in the second. Clendening then picked up a holding penalty after dragging down Jack Eichel in the third period. Eichel scored on the ensuing power play to tie the game.

Clendening signed with the Rangers as a free agent on July 1. In 56 career NHL games he has two goals and 12 assists.

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Five regular-season Rochester Americans games will be broadcast on MSG, including the Feb. 22 contest against the Utica Comets at KeyBank Center in Buffalo.

The games will be simulcast the Amerks radio broadcast team – play-by-play man Don Stevens in his 31st season and color analyst, and former Sabre Ric Seiling.

Scheduled broadcasts, all scheduled for 7:05 p.m., include: Dec. 14 vs. Toronto Marlies, Dec. 26 vs. Syracuse Crunch; Jan. 27 vs. Albany; Feb. 17 vs. Bridgeport Sound Tigers and Feb. 22 vs. Utica Comets.

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The Buffalo Sabres will continue an online game-worn jersey auction through 9 p.m. Dec. 11. Game-worn home jerseys from the 2015-16 season include Jack Eichel and Ryan O’Reilly and all jerseys come with a certificate of authenticity. Proceeds from the auction benefit the Buffalo Sabres Foundation. Visit sabres.com/auction to see the jerseys and place a bid.

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