(WGR 550) – The Buffalo Sabres had another pregame curveball thrown at them Thursday in Pittsburgh when they found out a couple hours before the game that acting head coach Don Granato and assistant Matt Ellis went into the NHL’s COVID-19 Protocols. That meant general manager Kevyn Adams went behind the bench and Rochester Americans coach Seth Appert arrived while the game was going on to help out.
Not only did that happen, but Tage Thompson was sick and couldn’t play, and Rasmus Asplund went out with injury, forcing C.J. Smith and Steven Fogarty to be called up from the taxi squad.
For two of the three periods, the Sabres played probably their best game since they beat the New Jersey Devils back on Feb. 23. However, it still ended in a 4-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, and Buffalo’s winless streak has now hit 16 games.
Penguins goalie Casey DeSmith made 36 saves to pick up his third shutout in four career games against the Sabres. In the first period, Buffalo had traffic around him and got at least four tipped shots that DeSmith was able to turn away. He was able to make big saves on Victor Olofsson on a rebound, Rasmus Dahlin from the slot and Curtis Lazar, who took a nice feed from Jeff Skinner.
Late in the period, that same line got caught standing around watching the play, which allowed Radim Zohorna to score his first NHL goal in his first NHL game. The 24-year-old was signed by Pittsburgh as an undrafted free agent in 2020.
Buffalo went back to its usually uninspired, unfocused hockey in the second period.
While killing a penalty, Colin Miller failed to get the puck out of the zone and Jared McCann was left all by himself to give the Pens an insurmountable 2-0 lead.
Buffalo did come to life again in the third, firing 16 shots at DeSmith, but McCann’s second power play goal of the game made it 3-0.
Buffalo had great chances to score, which included Cody Eakin walking in on a clear cut shorthanded breakaway.
The Sabres did get on the board on a terrific end-to-end rush by Dylan Cozens. After he broke through the defense, Cozens found a wide-open Olofsson who scored on the layup.
There was one problem, though. The goal was overturned because Skinner was offside. It really was a shame that such a great play was called back.
Sidney Crosby assisted on the empty net goal, giving him three assists on the game and 1,300 points in his career. Against Buffalo, he now has 70 points in 46 games.
After the game, Taylor Hall was asked by John Vogl if he’d be open to a trade if Adams brought one to him. The winger simply said, “Yeah, for sure.”
Hall has a complete no movement clause in his contract, so he would have to approve any trade. Many around the NHL feel the Sabres would be hard-pressed to even get a third round pick for him, at this point.
We’ll have to wait and see if that’s right.
Adams said he’s not sure who will be behind the bench Saturday afternoon in Boston. The general manager did say both Granato and Ellis are symptom free from COVID-19.