9/17 Recap: Kassian captains streakbuster; "A" group battles Caps

The Sabres sent a half-dozen junior players back to their CHL clubs on Thursday just hours before starting their 2009 pre-season schedule. However, only five of the six were afforded down time as one prospect was able to drive 100 miles home to arrive in time for the start of his team's regular season. Peterborough Petes captain Zack Kassian left Buffalo in the 2:00 hour and joined his mates prior to the 7:11 puck drop with Brampton. Seeing loads of ice time from coach Ken McRae, the 6'3 banger assisted on the game-tying goal midway through the third period as the Petes came back to edge the Battalion, 2-1. The Petes victory was their first over the Troops since November 2006, a span covering nine regular season games and another four from last season's playoff sweep. Joining Kassian back in the OHL will be Marcus Foligno, who returned to Sudbury for Friday's contest with Erie, and Saginaw's Nick Crawford, who will get with the Spirit for their opener at Guelph. WHL defenseman Brayden McNabb is expected to play in Kootenay's season opener against Lethbridge after a late-Thursday arrival. Capping the list of departees, Cape Breton center Luke Adam and Chicoutimi's Jacob Lagacé are back in the QMJHL for weekend action. Adam will make his Screaming Eagles debut on Saturday against Saint John. Lagacé will be in uniform for weekend games against Victoriaville and Quebec. --------------------------- With six leaving town, the Sabres "A" list of remaining prospects got a solid look as the club opened the pre-season with a 4-3 OT loss to Washington. Bubble forwards Nathan Gerbe (16:25), Tyler Ennis (15:40), Philip Gogulla (13:54), and Tim Kennedy (13:36) all saw nice chunks of action, while Tyler Myers (21:01), Marc-Andre Gragnani (17:02), Mike Kostka (16:41), and Mike Weber (21:26) formed a youthful backline with Chris Butler and Andrej Sekera. Jhonas Enroth finished the game in Buffalo's net after Patrick Lalime's played his period-and-a-half. Myers (+1) made a positive impression by using his reach, executing sharp passes, and even making a nice hit on Caps defender John Carlson. As expected there's still a speed adjustment needed in terms of being an everyday NHL defenseman, but the foundation is clearly in place. In my opinion, the NHL-CHL rule with 19-year old players needs to be amended to at least allow first-round NHL picks to play in the AHL in their second post-draft season. Regardless of contract/budget issues, I'm seeing little developmental value in Myers going back to dominate the WHL. Ennis, who will make any line buzz when placed down the middle, put his speed and passing skills on display with Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville as wings. The creative element that Ennis brings to the top-six will not be ignored once the necessary strength is built on his smallish frame. His line saw top-unit power play time, yet connected for even strength damage on Buffalo's first goal of the night by Pominville. Also worth noting was the smart, effective blueline work by Kostka. The 23-year old hit for two shots on goal and picked up an assist on the Pominville tally. The goal tied the game at 1-1 after a Weber (-1) miscue earlier allowed the Caps a 1-0 lead. Late in the third period with the score tied 2-2, Gerbe's grunting forecheck behind the Caps' cage resulted in Gogulla finding Kennedy, who buried a backhand to put the Sabres ahead with 2:32 to play. With anything possible, the trio could be a potent combo if all three land on the farm to start the year. Just :23 later, a Gragnani turnover would allow Jay Beagle to beat Enroth and force overtime. A Brian Pothier slapper while on a 5-3 power play ended tings just :49 into the extra session. Enroth entered the game at 13:13 of the middle period, allowing three goals on 26 shots. (13:13. 26 shots. An interesting thought for superstitious stat junkies.) He got a taste of the NHL's down-low pressure on his first goal against scored by vet Mike Knuble, but played well overall. Remaining prospects in camp include T.J. Brennan, Drew Schiestel, Felix Schutz, Paul Byron, Matt Generous, Travis Turnbull, and Maxime Legault. All but Legault are under contract and slated for Portland. The Sabres will return to exhibition action on Saturday in Detroit. --------------------------- In Thursday KHL action, Marek Zagrapan was kept off the sheet as Severstal dropped a 2-0 decision to Mettalurg.
Previous
Next Post »