With training camp over, the Buffalo Sabres are now in regular season mode, getting ready for Thursday’s season opener against the Washington Capitals at KeyBank Center.
Injuries are starting to creep in with this group as Curtis Lazar didn’t practice for the second straight day, and Kyle Okposo went about 40 minutes into Tuesday's practice before leaving. Both have lower-body injuries and both are day-to-day.
The team must have its roster and taxi squad into the NHL by 5 p.m. EST on Tuesday, and head coach Ralph Krueger confirmed that their 2020 first round pick, Jack Quinn will be a part of the group in Buffalo. Quinn looked very good in practice playing with Casey Mittelstadt and Rasmus Asplund.
The winger’s speed and puck handling skills were evident, and he was good at both ends of the ice.
The lines have only had minor tweaks to them since training camp opened back on Dec. 31.
“The way the lines have evolved, especially [Cody] Eakin, [Jack] Eichel and [Eric] Staal; you look at those groups, they’re clearly feeling synergy with each other," Krueger said following Tuesday's practice. "We see offensive upside with all the lines, and the group we have as a taxi squad is ready to jump into opportunities.”
The 23-man roster will include:
Hall - Eichel - Thompson
Olofsson - Staal - Reinhart
Rieder - Eakin - Okposo
Skinner - Sheahan - Cozens
McCabe - Ristolainen
Dahlin - Montour
Miller - Jokiharju
Ullmark - Hutton
From there, they’ll carry three more roster players in Quinn, Lazar, and defenseman Matt Irwin.
Meanwhile, the Sabres officially announced their five-man taxi squad roster on Wednesday, consisting of Mittelstadt and Asplund, defensemen Will Borgen and Brandon Davidson, as well as goalie Jonas Johansson.
Dylan Cozens was one of the best players at the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship, and it looks like he’ll get a chance to play.
“We recognize where he’s come from, the game pace he’s been on," Krueger said of Cozens. "He’s got a lot of confidence, he’s looking good on the ice, he’s game shape ready, and we’ll take our time with how we take him to the next step.”
Things are different for the Sabres when they’re on the road, and you will see a different taxi squad for both.
“All those players are available to us when we are home on a same day call-up, whereas when we move on the road, the group that we take, that’s it," Krueger mentioned. "So if we’re going away for four games, we need to decide before that trip because we cannot call up from Rochester.”
This season will be like no other played in the NHL. You only play teams in your division and there are numerous back-to-backs.
Eric Staal has played 16 years, and he has to prepare for something different this upcoming season.
“There’s so many factors to go along with a lot of games that are unknown," Staal said following practice. "There are no fans, travel restrictions, what we can do when we’re on the road. There’s a lot of things that will be a lot different.”
Staal played when the 2012-13 season started in January after the lockout. He compared this upcoming campaign to that, saying, “I liken it to the 48-game season. There was a lot of hockey and a lot of games, but once you get into the routine and the process day-by-day, you just do your best to perform.”
The team will have one more practice on Wednesday before the Capitals come to town to open the 2020-21 season.