While the games are essentially meaningless and the veteran players don’t see much playing time, it is beneficial for prospects and young players as they prepare themselves for the speed and style of the NHL.
The Sabres opened up the pre-season with a 5-4 shootout victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Sunday, Sept. 15. The Sabres top two-draft picks in the 2012 NHL draft helped lead the way for the Sabres, as Zemgus Girgensons (drafted 14th overall) had two goals in the contest, while Mikhail Grigorenko (drafted 12th overall) netted the shootout game winner. 23-year-old goalie Matt Hackett (acquired from the Minnesota Wild) in the Jason Pominville trade) stopped 12 of 13 shots while playing a little over half the game after usual backup goalie Jhonas Enroth gave up three goals on 13 shots.
Zemgus Girgensons spent all of last season with the Rochester Amerks scoring six goals and adding 11 assists for 17 points in 61 games during the regular season before breaking out during the first round of the playoffs for the Amerks with three goals in three games. While he might start the season this year in Rochester, it is possible he will see some action with the Sabres this season in case of injuries.
Mikhail Grigorenko played 25 games with the Sabres last season scoring only one goal and adding four assists for five points while only playing around 10 minutes per game on average. With more playing time, Grigorenko will look to prove why the Sabres took him with their first pick in the 2012 draft.
Matt Hackett appeared in 13 games with the Minnesota Wild between 2011 and 2013 before being acquired by the Sabres, posting a 3-7-0 record, a 2.64 goals against average, and a .914 Save Percentage. He also played 132 games with their AHL affiliate Houston Aeros between 2010 and 2013, posting a 62-53-13 record, a .913 save percentage, and a 2.47 Goals Against Average. After being acquired by the Sabres in February, he then played three games with the Amerks late last season, going 3-0-0 with a 1.62 goals against average and a .955 save percentage. He will likely spend the season in Rochester as the Amerks starting goalie barring any injuries to Ryan Miller or Jhonas Enroth, or if Ryan Miller gets traded at some point during the season like has been widely speculated. He
The Sabres defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-1 in their second pre-season game on Tuesday, Sept. 17. Marcus Foligno scored two goals in the game while Mikhail Grigorenko secured the victory with a goal in the third period. Ryan Miller played a little over half the game giving up only one goal on 16 shots before Matt Hackett came in and stopped all nine shots he faced.
Marcus Foligno heads into his official sophomore season with 61 NHL games under his belt since 2011, with 11 goals and 20 assists for 31 points. He played in 47 of the Sabres 48 games last season, scoring five goals and adding 13 assists for 18 points, while posting 41 penalty minutes and a minus-4 rating. Having been a plus-6 during his 14 games with the Sabres the previous season, Foligno looks to improve on his defensive and physical game, which wasn’t as effective last year.
The Sabres then defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 5-2 in their third pre-season game on Thursday, with Ryan Miller playing the entire game and stopping 34 of 36 shots. 22-year old defenseman Brayden McNabb had two goals and an assist in the game, while 20-year-old forward Joel Armia and 21-year-old forward Johan Larsson each had a goal and an assist.
Brayden McNabb played 25 games with the Sabres during the 2011-2012 season, scoring one goal and adding seven assists for eight points, while tallying 15 penalty minutes and posting a minus-1 rating. He then spent all of last season with the Amerks, scoring five goals and adding 31 assists for 36 points in 62 games, while also amassing 50 penalty minutes and a minus-1 rating. While McNabb hopes to make the Sabres roster sooner rather than later, the team currently has a log jam of defensemen that will likely cause him to start the season in Rochester for yet another season.
Joel Armia was drafted 16th overall by the Sabres in the first round of the 2011 NHL draft although has yet to make his NHL regular season debut. He has spent the last three seasons with Porin Ässät of the Finnish League (SM-liiga), playing 149 games with the team since 2010. In those 149 games, Armia has 55 goals and 45 assists for 100 total points. He also had 120 penalty minutes and was rated a plus-33 during his time with Porin Ässät.
Johan Larsson, who was acquired from the Minnesota Wild along with Matt Hackett in the Jason Pominville trade, was drafted 56th overall by the Wild in the second round of the 2010 NHL draft. Larsson played only one with the Wild before the trade, being held without a point in a little over 14 minutes of play against the Detroit Red Wings back in February. He spent most of the season with the Wild’s AHL affiliate Houston Aeros, where he had 15 goals and 22 assists for 37 points in 62 games. He also 38 penalty minutes and an even plus/minus rating. After being acquired by the Sabres, Larsson had one goal and three assists for four points in seven games with the Amerks, to go along with two penalty minutes and a minus-2 rating.
The Sabres have four games remaining on their pre-season schedule before opening the regular season on Wednesday, Oct. 2 in Detroit against the Red Wings. As the pre-season roles to a close, the Sabres’ veteran players will likely see more ice-time as the Sabres make roster cuts and send players back to either the Rochester Americans or their respective Junior teams in order to get down to the 23-player roster limit by the start of the regular season.