Buffalo Sabres captain Jack Eichel was a late scratch at the start of Thursday night's game against the New Jersey Devils with a lower-body injury. That didn't stop Buffalo from competing, but it wasn't enough, as the Devils take down the Sabres, 4-3 in overtime at KeyBank Center.
Buffalo got out front early in the first period off of a goal from forward Riley Sheahan, who replaced Eichel on the top line between Sam Reinhart and Victor Olofsson.
Linus Ullmark made 15 saves in the opening frame, but he was replaced in net by Carter Hutton to begin the second period. Ullmark was forced out of the game after suffering a lower-body injury of his own in the first.
A win could have pulled Buffalo out of last place in the East Division over the Devils. However, Buffalo takes only a point in the overtime loss and remain in eighth place.
Let's take a look at three observations from this game:
1.) Ullmark injury could be costly for the Sabres
Depending on the severity of his injury, Ullmark could be absent from the lineup for the next little bit or longer. Any missed time from Ullmark is bad news for Buffalo.
Ullmark made a flurry of saves early in the first period, stopping a mad dash in front of the net, saving two shots from Jesper Bratt. The puck later came back out, and Ullmark had to reset in order to snag a shot from Devils captain Nico Hischier's of the air to stop the play.
Ullmark was slow to get up on the play, but remained in the game for the rest of the period before being replaced by Hutton.
Ullmark had started the last five games for the Sabres, including Thursday night. Through that stretch, Ullmark had saved 124 of 133 shots for a save percentage of .932. He's been a mainstay in the net for the Sabres.
Hutton saved 21 of the 25 shots he faced on the night in a losing effort.
2.) Power play keeps Buffalo in the game, even without Eichel
The Sabres have generated tons of offense on the power play this year, relying on it in many games to stay in contests. Thursday night was no different.
Buffalo converted on two of their four chances, and now leads the league in power play percentage, converting on 34.5% of their chances this season.
Sabres rookie forward Dylan Cozens slotted in for Eichel at first on the first power play unit. Cozens showed pretty well early on, as he set up a great chance for Reinhart late in the first period. Sabres coach Ralph Krueger switched things up late in the third period as center Eric Staal shifted from his spot on the second unit in place of Cozens.
Casey Mittelstadt had some time on Buffalo's second power play unit, and it paid off in the second period with a goal. Mittelstadt has points in two of his last three games.
3.) Hall struggling to score, and it's not for a lack of trying
Sabres forward Taylor Hall has had a rough start to his 2020-21 season so far. After scoring in his first game in a Buffalo uniform, Hall hasn't scored in his last 15 contests.
In general, the Sabres haven't been able to get the offense going with Hall on the ice. Buffalo's goals-for percentage is just 38.2% with Hall on the ice, but his expected goals-for percentage sits at 61.84%. He's had a good run with Staal and Cozens playing on Buffalo's second line.
Hall has taken a total of 43 shots on goal this season. Five of his shots were on net on Thursday, but none of them converted. Hall's shooting percentage on the season sits at 2.3%, a career-low.
The Sabres will have Friday off from game action, but they will stay in Buffalo to take on the Philadelphia Flyers at KeyBank Center on Saturday and Sunday afternoon.
The Paul William Beltz Pregame Show kicks off at 12 p.m. EST with Brian Koziol, leading you up to opening faceoff just after 1 p.m. EST on the radio flagship of the Sabres - WGR Sports Radio 550.