Sabres Notebook: Josefson could be key option in shootouts - The Buffalo News

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Sabres Notebook: Josefson could be key option in shootouts

When you look at the crowd of players among the Buffalo Sabres' potential bottom-six forwards, there's one intangible you have to keep in mind about Jacob Josefson.

The former New Jersey Devils center is one of the NHL's best when it comes to the shootout. The last two years, remember, the Sabres have been the NHL's worst.

Over the last three seasons, Josefson went 10 for 18 with four game-winners. Among players with at least 10 attempts, he's fifth in the league in that stretch at 55.5 percent.

"I've got some good confidence there," the 26-year-old Swede said after a recent practice. "Once you score a couple you get confidence in that situation. It's been fun and I like being out there."

Buffalo shooters, meanwhile, were just 6 for 27 last year and only 4 for 27 in 2015-16 as they posted a 4-13 record in shootouts. At 18.5 percent, they were the only NHL team in that stretch to score on fewer than 20 percent of their opportunities -- at a time when 21 teams were over 30 percent.

Josefson said keeping goalies guessing is the key to his success. Video scouting is so in-depth, you have to have a variety of moves.

"I kind of have two options when I go out there," he said. "I read off the goalie. If he does it one way, I go the other way and the other way around. I have my mind set up before I go.

"You don't go and do the same thing every time. All the teams do their prescout. We do it with the goalies and other teams do it with the shooters. You have to be able to mix it up."

The Sabres signed Josefson to a one-year, $700,000 deal on July 1. His shootout prowess belies his struggles to score most of the time. Josefson played 276 games for the Devils since 2010 and has been exclusively in the NHL the last four seasons but has just 18 goals and 60 points. Last year, he had only one goal in 38 games.

Still, coach Phil Housley has given the sense he feels there's roles for Josefson to play on his team.

"He's a really smart hockey player," Housley said. "He's always in the right spot, offensively or defensively. ... Hopefully we can translate that into more goals and points but I'm really intrigued with what he's brought."

Josefson said he liked the conversation he had with new General Manager Jason Botterill and the up-tempo style Housley would like to play.

"A skating game fits me pretty well. I consider myself a pretty good skater," he said. "You like to play with the puck and the offense. Having a system that allows you to do that, if you do it the right way it should be a lot of fun to be on the ice.

"We have a lot of good players here. The competition is high, which I think it should be. It makes you a better player. You have to compete in every practice, every game and show that you belong."

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Any thought of defenseman Brendan Guhle cracking the opening night lineup ended Sunday morning as the Sabres announced their top defense product has been sent to the Rochester Amerks to open the season.

The move is not surprising given the team's depth on the defense and is another indication the Sabres are confident that Marco Scandella will be ready for the Oct. 5 opener against Montreal even if his comeback from offseason hip surgery keeps him out of any preseason games.

Guhle made his NHL debut last season in a three-game stint when the Sabres were riddled with injuries. He finished the year in Rochester, collecting a goal and an assist in six games with the Amerks. The Sabres have been clear in their desire to get Guhle top-pair minutes in the AHL this season and the 20-year-old figures to be one of Rochester's key players.

Also sent to Rochester were forwards Hudson Fasching, C.J. Smith and Kyle Criscuolo. Fasching made Buffalo's opening night lineup last season but struggled most of the year with groin injuries. Smith made his NHL debut in March after being signed from Massachusetts-Lowell while Criscuolo was a free agent signee over the summer.

The Sabres' roster now stands at 32 players (18 forwards, 11 defensemen and three goaltenders). They have to get down to 23 by Oct. 4. The Amerks begin their training camp Monday in Blue Cross Arena. They have exhibition games against the Toronto Marlies Friday night at RIT and Saturday night at 7 in HarborCenter.

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Single-game tickets for the Canada/USA World Juniors game Dec. 29 in New Era Field go onsale Monday at 10 a.m.

The 3 p.m. game will be the first outdoor contest in the history of the tournament. Tickets will be initially priced from $44-$110 and follow the dynamic pricing model, which means they can fluctate as gameday approaches.

Tickets will be available at Buffaloworldjuniors.com

Game time set for World Juniors outdoor hockey game Dec. 29 at New Era Field

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The Sabres continue training camp with practice Monday morning in HarborCenter at 11 a.m. Workouts are open to the public there but closed when in KeyBank Center, except for morning skates on gameday. Buffalo is 1-2-1 in the preseason with two games left, Wednesday at Pittsburgh and Friday at home against the New York Islanders.

 

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