The Buffalo Sabres opening preseason game saw a number of their young players rise to the occasion and contribute. It's a formula the Sabres will have to emulate 82 times during this rebuilding season if they're to have any hope of competing in the newly re-aligned Eastern Conference.
Zemgus Girgensons led the way with two goals and a strong performance on the ice, leading Ron Rolston to say after the game that he thought #28 was "one of our best players tonight."Girgensons will likely be challenging players like Patrick Kaleta, Cody McCormick, Kevin Porter, and Corey Tropp for a spot on the big club, and if he keeps playing like he did last night, it will be very hard for the organization to send him down to Rochester.
Buffalo's young defenders chipped in with assists and strong games on the back end from Mark Pysyk and Rasmus Ristolainen. Matt Hackett got the shootout win, and Mikhail Grigorenko netted the shootout winner to cap off a strong night for Sabres prospects.
Buffalo fans better get used to seeing some of these new faces, as the Sabres will likely rely heavily on rookies and still-unproven players like Cody Hodgson and Marcus Foligno to be big contributors. There's no saying that those guys can't step up to the plate and prove themselves, but it will likely be a season with ups-and-downs as the youngsters get used to the NHL game.
Tonight the Sabres face their second preseason opponent in the Columbus Blue Jackets. Let's see if the youngsters can put on a repeat performance, and take the next step in to proving that the Sabres have made the right choices over the past few years.