Buffalo Sabres Game Preview #44 – St. Louis Blues

The Lines

Buffalo Sabres:
Rasmus Asplund – Jack Eichel – Sam Reinhart
Michael Frolik – Marcus Johansson – Conor Sheary
Zemgus Girgensons – Johan Larsson – Kyle Okposo
Jimmy Vesey – Curtis Lazar – Scott Wilson

Lawrence Pilut – Rasmus Ristolainen
Rasmus Dahlin – Colin Miller
Brandon Montour – Henri Jokiharju

Linus Ullmark

 

St. Louis Blues:
Jaden Schwartz – Brayden Schenn – Jordan Kyrou
Zach Sanford – Ryan O’Reilly – David Perron
Alex Steen – Robert Thomas – Tyler Bozak
MacKenzie MacEachern – Ivan Barbashev – Oskar Sundqvist

Vince Dunn – Alex Pietrangelo
Jay Bouwmeester – Justin Faulk
Niko Mikkola – Robert Bortuzzo

Jordan Binnington

 

Keys to the Game

1. The return of Lawrence Pilut
Lawrence Pilut was one of the best defensemen on last year’s Buffalo Sabres team, but has yet to see the ice for the Sabres in 2019-20. He began the season on IR, recovering from shoulder surgery, and was sent down to Rochester to recover. What should have been a short 5-game rehab stint in the AHL, turned into 29 games due to the logjam of defenders on the NHL roster. With the departure of Marco Scandella and the injury to Jake McCabe, Lawrence Pilut will finally make his NHL debut against the Blues tonight. He’ll be paired with Rasmus Ristolainen and should be a boost to the transition game. The Pilut-Ristolainen pair saw 223 5v5 minutes together last season, posting an impressive 55.5 CF% and 56.4 xGF%. Let’s see if this pairing can continue its magic in 2020.

 

2. Michael Frolik’s Sabres Debut
Michael Frolik is excited for a fresh start in Buffalo and rightfully so. He will be featured as the LW on the 2nd line alongside Marcus Johansson and Conor Sheary. Frolik was not given much opportunity in Calgary this season due to the emergence of younger wingers and was ultimately a bottom six forward, averaging 11:56 TOI. With the winger injuries in Buffalo, he will be given a much larger role for the Sabres. Frolik should provide the team with some solid PK experience and hopefully he will be able to chip in on offense as well. You can check out my article evaluating the Frolik trade here.

 

3. Rasmus Asplund on the top line
Rasmus Asplund has a golden opportunity on the Eichel and Reinhart line with Victor Olofsson out due to injury. He has never been a major offensive producer in his professional career, but he has enough offensive talent to be slotted throughout the lineup. It’s honestly amazing to see the progress he has made in his 1st NHL season and we will see if he can take that next step over the next few weeks with the numerous winger injuries. I think we will see a big uptick in Asplund’s numbers as he has been able to create scoring opportunities, but he has struggled with converting those opportunities into actual goals. With more talented linemates, we will start to see Rasmus Asplund’s name on the scoresheet more often.

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