Learning: Sabres coach Ralph Krueger showed no signs of panic or concern following practice Tuesday. Rather than making wholesale changes to his lines, Krueger opted to swap Evan Rodrigues in for Conor Sheary, who is listed on the injury report as "week-to-week" with an upper-body injury.
Additionally, Krueger wants the Sabres to be quicker to adjust to the different styles of teams they'll play this season. For example, the Blue Jackets are a heavy forechecking team that will thrive when their opponent does not match their intensity. The Canadiens, meanwhile, rely more on skill and are similar to the Pittsburgh Penguins in terms of roster construction.
This could be a lesson for Krueger as well. Prior to the loss Monday, Krueger spoke to the media about wanting his players to focus more on their game than the opponent. Of course, there are some drawbacks to such a strategy. Perhaps the Sabres were too wrapped up in continuing to learn their own systems that they didn't pay mind to the desperate team they were going to face in Columbus.
"For us, it’s important sometimes to have tough nights right now because we are in a very deep learning phase of changing the way we want to play and developing Sabres hockey here," Krueger said. "Those setbacks are really, really good, especially when you take a point out of them. That’s the way we’re managing it today. We’ve had a lot of conversations. The players are very clear on what we’ve done well in the last three games and what we haven’t. We’re just going to continue to drive towards the well.”
Sabres' lineup: There will be some amount of uncertainty about the Sabres' lineup prior to home games this season. After all, they do not plan to hold morning skates. Krueger has also waited until following their team meeting on game day to announce his starting goalie.
However, Rodrigues will draw into the lineup for Sheary, and Krueger did not make any other changes to his lineup during practice Tuesday. Defenseman John Gilmour will be a healthy scratch for a fourth consecutive game, and Carter Hutton will start in goal:
Sabres' lines/pairings at practice:
Gilmour is extra
— Lance Lysowski (@LLysowski) October 8, 2019
Balanced scoring: Don't expect Jeff Skinner to be united with Jack Eichel anytime soon. Krueger wants to construct his lines to try to get consistent scoring from at least two of the groups. He's accomplished that goal thus far, as Skinner and Johansson have each scored in the past two games.
The Sabres have gotten points from 14 different players this season. Also, Victor Olofsson has thrived on the top line, though each of his goals has come on the power play. The 24-year-old winger enters the game tonight with a career-best three-game point streak. He skated a career-high 20:54 against Columbus on Monday. Since he made his NHL debut March 28, 2019, no NHL player has scored more power-play goals than Olofsson's five in nine games played.
“It’s very important for us to develop two lines that have a regular offensive punch," Krueger said following practice Tuesday. "The opportunity to have them on power play, which has been functioning well, to put the players that are most productive offensively and specialize in that skill set, that’s always there. But we see with Marcus Johansson with Jeff a real synergy that’s growing and developing. They really are finding each other and feeding off each other. ... We’ve enjoyed that line through the first games and we’ll see how it goes. But it’s not about splitting anybody up. It’s about spreading out the power of the lineup and the depth that we need to have here. We’re looking for production right through the lineup. All four lines need to help us to have a chance to win here every night.”
Canadiens' lineup: Montreal held an optional morning skate Wednesday in KeyBank Center. However, coach Claude Julien confirmed the Canadiens will start backup goalie Keith Kinkaid against the Sabres. Kinkaid, 30, is 3-1 with a .931 save percentage in four career games against Buffalo.