Following Sabres practice today, Don Granato indicated that the lines that were on the ice together today are likely to be the lines Sabres fans will see on opening night. The lines were reported as Asplund and Okposo centered by Girgensons; Skinner and Olofsson with Thompson; Tuch and Quinn with Mittelstadt; and Krebs and Peterka with Cozens. The odd line out would appear to be Bjork, Sheahan and Hinostroza.
“In line combinations, we’re starting to look at, ‘OK, these combinations we have here are in hopes that we don’t want to tweak things around much at this point.’ We know we can, but we’d like to see the groups that were out here get the next few days of practice and games together, for the most part.”Don Granato
In my last article, I lauded the combination of Skinner, Thompson, and Tuch. I love that line combination. They were great in transition as well as maintaining possession in the offensive zone. Tuch’s ability to grind in the corners, Skinner’s playmaking and work in front of the net and Thompson’s absolute piss missile of a shot resulted in career high points for Thompson and Skinner and a career high points per game for Tuch in the 50 that he played.
It would appear that Don Granato is going to move Victor Olofsson on to the right wing with Thomspon and Skinner. This pairs the two best shooters on the team with Jeff Skinner.
In my opinion, this move probably has more to do with adding a bit of grit and veteran leadership with the younger combo of Mittelstadt and Quinn. That line has a ton of skill on the puck and Quinn has shown a big time ability to finish at the AHL level. Many are hoping for and/or predicting a breakout year for Casey Mittelstadt in what will be his 5th NHL season. He showed flashes last year while being hampered by injury. If he reaches his potential, it will go a long way to help the Sabres make a playoff push.
The line of Rasmus Asplund, Zemgus Girgensons, and Kyle Okposo is going to be hell to play against. I would imagine this line being out for most defensive zone faceoffs and matched up against the opponents top line whenever possible. All three of these players play heavy on the puck and have the ability to put pucks in the net. This is a line that can play as a shut down line but can absolutely contribute scoring depth as well.
Perhaps the biggest question mark, the most exciting, and the most important line for the future of the franchise is Peyton Krebs, Dylan Cozens, and JJ Peterka. Peterka put up 40 assists in the AHL last year playing primarily with fellow rookie Jack Quinn and earned AHL rookie of the year honors. He has shown to be a high effort player with a tremendous skill set and playmaking ability. Lining up with Cozens and Krebs who each have similar styles may make for a formidable line. They have the potential to be a difficult line to matchup depth with.
Defensive pairings look to be the same as the end of last season with the exception of Ilya Lyubushkin slotting in for Mark Pysyk who signed with the Stars in the offseason and Owen Power in the place that was mainly filled by Casey Fitzgerald last year. The addition of Power and Lyubushkin as well as the potential growth of the four young returning defensemen creates an exciting outlook for a team that was 25th in goals against last season.
One last team move that should be mentioned is that the Sabres have named Golden Retriever Nicki team dog for 2022-2023. She seems to be fitting in well with the team despite stealing Coach Granato’s glove after practice. Love to see it.