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.
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Anonymous
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Friday, September 18, 2009 ×

Baker, great article. I love reading your work. Keep it up.
"Ruff for President"

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Anonymous
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Friday, September 18, 2009 ×

If Myers goes down to the DUB (which I think he will), atleast he gets to play in the World Juniors for Team Canada.
"Ruff for President"

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Anonymous
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Friday, September 18, 2009 ×

What about Persson?

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Kris Baker
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Friday, September 18, 2009 ×

Persson still there, and will probably see some pre-season action. My bad. Was getting tired...

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Anonymous
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Friday, September 18, 2009 ×

I listened to some Portland game last year and they talked very highly of Kostka, and he rarely make smistakes. He seems like he makes better decisions than guys like Grags. I think he deserves a shot at getting the first call-up on defense this coming season. And how do you feel about Generous' chances?

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Anonymous
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Friday, September 18, 2009 ×

Myers should be back in the WHL he is no way ready for he NHL full time.

Did not look like the hype he is projected.

Still to young.

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Anonymous
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Friday, September 18, 2009 ×

It was only one pre-season game. Could be nerves.

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Kris Baker
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Friday, September 18, 2009 ×

10:01 - Kostka is a very steady defenseman who is making good progress. A depth builder. He's not flashy, he doesn't wow anyone. He's smart and coachable, and I thought his growth last season was outstanding.

His impact is all relative to expectations. If you're looking for a guy who could admirably fill the 6-spot on call-up, he's going to be a decent candidate as his experience builds.

I agree with your "decisions" comparison, but Gragnani will always be in the conversation based on his power play ability and offensive wherewithal in general.

Kostka is no dud with the puck though, and I'll value smarts just as much as transition talent if you only need performance in bottom-pair minutes.

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Kris Baker
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Friday, September 18, 2009 ×

Regarding Genny, him being out for a month with a sliced tendon really put a bump in his road. It's going to take some time to get back with the speed of the game once recovered.

Overall, a strong skating college guy who can hold his own physically in the A. I'm not really thinking about him in a Sabres uniform this season, but I'm definitely comfortable with him in Portland. One year investment. Good defensively. Let's see where it goes.

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Anonymous
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Sunday, September 20, 2009 ×

Interesting how Kevin Sylvester wrote how Kostka was the best player in Game 1.

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