Buffalo, N.Y. (WGR 550) – Before touching on Tage Thompson's performance during Saturday’s Blue and Gold scrimmage, an update on Buffalo Sabres defenseman Rasmus Dahlin, who left the scrimmage after blocking a shot with about 10 seconds left to go.
Dahlin left the ice Saturday shaking his wrist after blocking the shot late, but said he was OK in the locker room following the skate.
"It’s all good," said Dahlin moments after the scrimmage. "I did a stupid choice and blocked that shot. it’s all good now.
"There’s 20 or 30 other guys that I’m watching, so I missed him going off. But he’s fine," added Sabres head coach Don Granato following the scrimmage. "You want to get through without [injuries]. The meaning of preseason is to get ready for the season, so you certainly don’t want to lose a guy getting ready for when it really matters."
Back to Thompson, he scored a penalty shot goal in Team Blue’s 2-0 win over Team Gold. Thompson used a different tactic, slowing down almost to a stop before scoring on goalie Dustin Tokarski.
Thompson says it was actually goalie Eric Comrie who helped him with it.
"It actually was something I was talking to Comrie about, just messing around after skates and talking about how hard that move is to stop. How slow you’re coming in, especially with me and my reach," said Thompson following the scrimmage.
To give you an example of how much extra some of these guys work, Thompson, Dahlin and Jordan Greenway were on the ice against Devon Levi for 45 minutes after practice on Friday.
You could tell there was some rust on the players during Saturday's scrimmage, because the passing was off and many players passed up shots to pass to pretty much nobody. Thompson says the first three days of camp included some rust.
"The first few days of practice were high pace, and then you get into more of a game situation today and shake some of the rust off," Thompson said. "It’s always nice to get into that game atmosphere."
Thompson feels his 18-year-old linemate, Zach Benson, has done well in the three days of camp in Buffalo.
"He’s a good player. A lot of skill, thinks the game at a high level, and very tenacious on the puck, causing a lot of turnovers," Thompson said of the 2023 first-round pick. "We had some fun playing together today, and I thought he looked good. Excited to see what he can do throughout camp and preseason."
Thompson won’t play Sunday when the Sabres play their first preseason game against the Washington Capitals, but he wants to get into some preseason games. He feels it’s the only way he can get into game shape.
The 25-year-old has a regiment that he uses in the offseason.
"I worked on my shot, skating, my hands, plus I worked on faceoffs a little bit. Just doing the same things that have led to success, not trying to change up too much,” Thompson said.
Thompson and his teammates do need to improve a lot of faceoffs, as he only won 43.1% of them last season, Dylan Cozens won 48.3%, Peyton Krebs won 45.1% and Casey Mittelstadt won 45.9%. It is something that needs to be quite a bit better overall.
Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams said Thursday the Sabres' window is open, and he wants the players to embrace that, not fear it. Thompson says Adams' remarks came as no surprise to him or anyone else on the roster.
"I think we all have the same mindset," he said. "I think last year, the way the season ended, none of us were happy about that. I think it showed everyone how close we were, how good we are, and I think that just leaves us hungry for this season. Obviously our expectations are going to be a lot higher inside this locker room than outside, and everyone in the room believes in each other and what we’re headed for."
Team Blue’s other goal on Saturday came when Mittelstadt out-battled two players on the wall and found Jiri Kulich, who split the defense and beat Tokarski.
Levi, Comrie and Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen all played 25 minutes on Saturday, and none of them were scored on. I’d say Luukkonen had to make the harder saves.
One of his best saves came later in the game while facing a 6-on-5. Team Blue turned the puck over to Greenway alone in the slot, but Luukkonen made the big save when it was needed.
During the same sequence, Blue got the puck into the crease area and crashed the net. However, Luukkonen fought for his ice and ultimately froze the puck.
Luukkonen had another great stop when he robbed Cozens with his glove on a breakaway. The 24-year-old also made a save on Mason Jobst on a penalty shot.
The prettiest play of the day was at the other end when Jeff Skinner set up Benson on the side of the crease for a layup, but the puck started bouncing and he hit the post.
Granato has liked Benson with Thompson and Skinner in camp, but did say that’s where Matt Savoie would’ve been had he not been hurt. The head coach explained that, for now, he’s playing top prospects with two returning players.
For the first few preseason games, Granato says the starting goalie will play two periods. That will be Comrie on Sunday in Washington, followed by Tokarski.
Granato said following the scrimmage he wanted to see other players taking part, so he held Alex Tuch, Erik Johnson, Mattias Samuelsson and Kyle Okposo out of the lineup. All four did a skills skate beforehand.
Following Saturday's scrimmage, Buffalo sent 2023 fourth-round pick Ethan Miedema and 2023 fifth-round pick Scott Ratzlaff back to their junior teams.
In addition, the Sabres released their roster for Sunday afternoon’s preseason game in Washington.
Join Brian Koziol and myself for pregame coverage starting at 1 p.m. ET on WBEN News Radio 930.