A lot of big names will be in the Buffalo Sabres' lineup when they open the preseason against Pittsburgh tonight at 7 at Pegula Ice Arena on the campus of Penn State. Jack Eichel, Jeff Skinner and Rasmus Dahlin are all scheduled to play in Ralph Krueger's first exhibition game as Buffalo coach.
Another interesting debut will be that of No. 1 draft pick Dylan Cozens, who will be on a line centering wingers Remi Elie and Tage Thompson.
"I've been here at main camp around the guys and I've become comfortable here just on the ice with these guys," Cozens said after today's morning skate in KeyBank Center before the team made the quick flight to State College, Pa. "Obviously it's exciting being in a preseason game with other top guys, stars in the NHL and people I looked up to growing up, so it's going to be exciting.
"I can't be going out there trying to dangle everyone and turning pucks over. I've got to simplify it, especially at this level."
#Sabres morning lineup looks like this:
(Hickey and Ristolainen appear to be extra D)
— Mike Harrington (@ByMHarrington) September 16, 2019
"What we're looking for is simplicity," said the coach, who added that Cozens should get power play time as well tonight. "I thought in the rookie camp at times, he was trying to be a difference-maker every time on the ice. He doesn't have that pressure here. We'd like to see him execute within the principles, keep it nice and simple and just have fun."
Cozens is a long shot to make the Sabres' roster and there's a chance this could be his only chance to play with the big club in the preseason. He knows that General Manager Jason Botterill has already publicly frowned on an 18-year-old, non-Dahlin division, sticking in the NHL.
"I'm just trying to work as hard as I can every day and learn as much as I can," Cozens said. "My goal is to stick here for as long as I can, but if not I'm going to be happy to go back to Lethbridge and have another year of development. My goal is to make an impression and make it a hard decision for them to make."
Krueger knows he'll have lots of hard decisions to make in the next couple of weeks regarding his roster.
"We really have multiple names, multiple spots, so it's going to be fun now," Krueger said. "The games will definitely influence us moving forward."
Albeit in preseason, this will be the first time Krueger has been behind an NHL bench in nearly 6½ years, since he was fired by the Edmonton Oilers in 2013.
"I haven't been a head coach in a while and I've run it through my head multiple times in the last years," he said. "So I"m looking forward to using these six games also to getting our bench operating the way we need to operate."
The game is on WGR Radio 550 and will be streamed at Sabres.com for those in the Sabres' main MSG Network viewing area, as per NHL rules. So it will probably be tough for any of Cozens' friends and family back home in Whitehorse of the Yukon territory to see his debut, without the help of some sort of pirated stream.
"I'm sure some people will try to. I haven't talked to anyone back there," he said. "My family will try to watch it. I don't know how they're going to be able to but I'm sure they'll figure it out."