While most of the talk centered around their historic lack of offense, there was big news over the weekend for the Buffalo Sabres' defense.
Zach Bogosian made his season debut after missing the first 25 games with a lower-body injury and had some serious impact in the two losses to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Bogosian played 20 minutes, 48 seconds in Friday night's game with four shots on goal and seven attempts. He played 17:34 in Saturday's rematch at PPG Paints Arena with two shots. He had an even plus-minus in both games — no small feat with the Sabres getting outscored, 9-1 — and an impressive 60.3 percent Corsi rating during 5 on 5 play.
On top of all that, Bogosian took on a fight with Pittsburgh tough guy Ryan Reaves after a hit on defense partner Jake McCabe. It was a play keenly noticed on the Buffalo bench.
"He's been our best defenseman for two nights after missing 25 games," coach Phil Housley said after Saturday's 5-1 loss. "Stepping in like this and providing energy and stepping up to the plate like he did tonight against Reaves, who is probably one of the toughest guys in the league, says a lot about him. He's just trying to provide a boost and energy for our team. It was a terrific job on his part."
"You have a guy on our team step up like Bogo and fight arguably one of the tougher, stronger guys in our game and it gives our bench a big boost," added center Jack Eichel. "That's leadership there. Obviously he didn't like the way he hit 'Caber.' He's trying to get some energy going and it's a great job by him."
Bogosian is the kind of skater Housley has said he's wanted on the backline since the summer. The Sabres' defense, which continues to be the only one in the league without a goal, had 13 shots on goal Saturday and started to get its shots through on a more consistent basis than most games this season.
"It's been tough for us to generate offense," Bogosian said. "And tonight we did a better job crashing the net and making it hard on their goaltender. Still not good enough though."
While the team's 1-9-2 slide is wearing on everyone in the locker room, Bogosian was able to take some personal satisfaction of being able to make it into the lineup and play well through a back-to-back.
"It felt nice to be back," he said. "It's tough to sit out the time I did, tough to see the team go through what we're going through up in the press box. That's tough to see. You want to be part of the team moving forward. I'm just trying to do my part to help out and do whatever I can to be back in the lineup."
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Bogosian's return helps the Sabres with their blueline balance and adds another right-handed shot to the return of Rasmus Ristolainen. Housley has wanted lefty-righty balance but has struggled to attain that through the team's injury bug; 11 different defenseman have already played this year.
Victor Antipin sat out Saturday as a healthy scratch but could resurface back in the lineup because Nathan Beaulieu left Saturday's game halfway through the third period and did not return for the third. His situation will come into focus when the Sabres return to practice Monday morning in KeyBank Center. The team had a CBA-mandated day off Sunday.
After practice Monday, the Sabres will fly to Denver to open a three-game Central Division road trip Tuesday night against the Colorado Avalanche. The trip continues Friday in Chicago and Sunday in St. Louis. The next home game isn't until Dec. 12 against Ottawa.