Preseason: Buffalo Sabres vs. Columbus Blue Jackets Game Preview 9/28/21

Expected Lines

Buffalo Sabres

Peterka – Cozens – Quinn
Bjork – Giregensons – Hinostroza
Murray – Ruotsalainen – Hayden
Weissbach – MacInnis – Mersch

Bryson – Laaksonen
Butcher – Prow
Davidson – Fitzgerald

Dell
Tokarski

Columbus Blue Jackets
Angle – Roslovic – Bjorkstrand
Robinson – Kuraly – Meyer
Malatesta – Reynolds – Stenlund
Sikura – Fonstad – Jordan

Gavrikov – Bean
Bayreuther – Peeke
Berni – Clayton

Merzlikins
Greaves


The Kids Line

Just a quick glance at the Sabres’ lines and it’s pretty obvious what most fans will be watching out for tonight: the Peterka – Cozens – Quinn line. We got to see JJ Peterka and Jack Quinn paired together for one game during the Prospects Challenge, now we get to see how they look with Dylan Cozens centering them. It will be interesting to see how this line fares against some NHL-caliber competition.

Will we see this line to start the regular season? Probably not, as Peterka and Quinn may be on the outside looking in for the NHL roster while Cozens will likely be fed top six NHL minutes. However, this will be a great chance for the two young wingers to show what they got and try to force the Sabres’ hand into keeping them around come October.


Granato’s new systems

With a full offseason of being the Sabres’ main guy, we finally get our first taste of the new systems that Don Granato plan to implement. It’s been pretty clear in his press conferences that he was not the biggest fan of how the team played last season and would like to play a less conservative, more up-tempo brand of hockey.

The Sabres under Ralph Krueger were characterized by a very low-event style of play. A 1-2-2 forecheck that saw the F1 alone on an island when pressuring the puck. Keep an eye on the F2, the second forward in on the forecheck, when the Sabres have the puck in the offensive or neutral zone tonight. Expect the F2 to play a more aggressive, pacy role this season.


Player Watch

Brett Murray, LW, Buffalo
We got to see Brett Murray absolutely dominate in the paint during the recent Prospects Challenge. At 6’5″ and 240 pounds, he was a problem to defend for a lot of his rookie opponents, especially on the power play. The Sabres plan to give him a net front position on the top power play unit tonight, so we will see how he fares against bigger NHL competition.

Ethan Prow, RHD, Buffalo
I think Ethan Prow was one of the more interesting free agent signings for the Sabres this offseason. After a four-year NCAA career at St. Cloud State, he had a bit of a slow start to his pro career in the Penguins system. He really started showing up offensively at 26 years old, recording 82 points in his last 116 AHL games along with 20 points in 26 DEL games this past season. As he returns to North America, Prow hopes to make his NHL debut at the age of 28. Expect him to play a Zach Redmond-type of role.

Tyler Angle, LW, Columbus
Angle is not talked about much outside of the Blue Jackets’ community, but this 20 year-old winger will be getting a look on the team’s top line tonight. After a solid OHL career, the 7th round pick had an awesome AHL rookie season, putting up 24 points in 23 games. An effective shot and a nice mix of skill, definitely a player to keep an eye on tonight.

Peter Reynolds, C, Columbus
Some may recall this name from my Sabremetrix List article prior to the 2021 NHL Draft. I thought Reynolds would have been a great late-round pick, but he (somehow) went undrafted. After a solid performance at the Traverse City tournament, the Jackets invited him to their main camp. He’s the king of give-and-go and a candidate to be drafted in 2022.


Prediction

Columbus 4, Buffalo 2
I think both teams are icing rosters that are pretty comparable in terms of NHL talent, so I think the main difference will come from the goaltenders. If Merzlikins gets the start, it will be difficult for this Sabres team to compete with that.

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