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October in Review: Defensive Injuries, Dahlin & Thompson Shine

Rasmus Dahlin, Tage Thompson have played out of their minds.

Buffalo Sabres v Edmonton Oilers Photo by Lawrence Scott/Getty Images

Through nine games in the month of October, the Buffalo Sabres are doing quite alright for themselves. At 6-3-0 and with 12 points, the Sabres currently sit second in the Atlantic Division and fourth in the Eastern Conference.

With an average of 4.11 goals-for per game, the Sabres are second in the NHL.

Dahlin, Thompson on a Roll

We can’t possibly talk about the Sabres’ opening month without talking about the play of Rasmus Dahlin and Tage Thompson. The two have each accrued 12 points, including six goals, in nine games.

Dahlin, of course, set and then extended an NHL record at the beginning of the season as he showcased the offensive side of his game. Thompson, meanwhile, nearly tied a franchise record for points in a game Monday night. After a mildly slow start, Thompson has a whopping nine points in his last two games.

Defensive Injuries

Early in the season, the Buffalo Sabres have not had a lot of luck on defense. Injuries, one after the other, have plagued both the Sabres and their AHL affiliate in Rochester. With nine games in the books, here’s a quick recap of the timeline of the season thus far and what injuries have arose.

The Sabres’ opening night roster included seven defensemen: Rasmus Dahlin, Mattias Samuelsson, Owen Power, Henri Jokiharju, Jacob Bryson, Ilya Lyubushkin and Casey Fitzgerald.

Lyubushkin was injured when blocking a shot in the game against Edmonton. It was considered a minor foot injury, and he missed only one game before returning to action. After skating in the next two games, he’s now considered day-to-day.

In just the fourth game of the season, Jokiharju leaves the game with an upper-body injury. He was placed on injured reserve on October 22, having suffered a small fracture in his face, and is considered week-to-week.

The next day, Samuelsson went down during the game in Vancouver. An MRI revealed no significant damage - so fortunately, the worst was avoided - but he is expected to miss several weeks.

The Sabres recalled Lawrence Pilut on October 21, after the injuries to Jokiharju and Lyubushkin. With the uncertainty, and subsequent loss of Samuelsson, he’s stayed with the NHL club. Kale Clague was recalled by Buffalo just two days later as the hits continued to stack up.

The Amerks, meanwhile, are already down a pair of defensemen, as Chase Priskie and Peter Tischke are both out with injuries. As a result, they’ve had to make a few roster moves, too: recalling Zach Berzolla from the ECHL’s Cincinnati Cyclones, and signing Brandon Davidson and Matt Bartkowski to PTOs.

In spite of all the injuries, the Sabres appear to be doing their best to make it work, and it actually seems to be working alright for the most part!

A Rotation of Scratches

I suppose having too many NHL-caliber forwards is a good problem to have, right?

Anders Bjork and Riley Sheahan simply weren’t getting enough/any playing time, so both have been sent down to Rochester. Bjork was scratched for Buffalo’s first two games, while Sheahan was scratched for five straight before the reassignment.

Otherwise, the Sabres have been employing a rotation of scratches to deal with their extra forwards. Vinnie Hinostroza has sat out three games; Jack Quinn sat out twice. Peyton Krebs and Rasmus Asplund also each sat twice.

Everyone is Contributing

Someone said it on Twitter last night, and I couldn’t agree more. A lot of what feels different about this Sabres team is that it’s not just one or two players contributing. Everyone, every line, is contributing. It speaks to the depth of the team, as does the aforementioned overpopulation of forwards.

Every Sabres forward has recorded at least two points, and only two players - Kale Clague, who has played just two games, and Mattias Samuelsson, who is injured - have yet to record a point this season. While Dahlin and Thompson are leading the way, Alex Tuch, Jeff Skinner and even Casey Mittelstadt and Victor Olofsson are getting there.

In the last two games, 15 different Sabres players have recorded at least a point. Six have recorded multiple points, including Thompson (5-4), Skinner (1-4), Okposo (0-4) and Dahlin (1-2).

Goaltending is Going Surprisingly Well

I’ll be honest, I didn’t have high expectations for the Sabres’ goaltending heading into the season, but Craig Anderson and Eric Comrie have both performed quite well early on.

Anderson has a 1.66 GAA, third-best in the league. He’s appeared in three games and has a 3-0 record, with five goals allowed on 92 shots faced. His .946 save percentage is also third-best in the league, behind only Stuart Skinner and Jake Oettinger.

Eric Comrie has appeared in six games and gone 3-3, with 20 goals allowed on 204 shots faced. His .902 save percentage and 3.34 GAA aren’t exactly top of the league material, but for a guy who’s carried the majority of the weight so far, it’s not been terrible.

The Sabres have averaged 2.78 goals against per game, sixth-best in the NHL.

Other Notes

  • Buffalo’s special teams could use a little work. Both the penalty kill and power play are roughly middle-of-the-road when it comes to comparing on a league-wide basis, something to keep an eye on going forward.
  • With 45+ shots in each of the last three games, the Sabres set a new franchise record. Overall, they’re averaging 33.1 shots per game.
  • Per MoneyPuck.com, the Sabres lead the NHL in goals differential above expected (8.51).
  • Off the ice, attendance hasn’t been great early on. The Sabres are averaging 12,760 fans per home game. Monday’s Halloween tilt fell under 10,000. Obviously there are a lot of factors to consider - including the state of the economy - but it would be nice to see a fuller KeyBank Center.
  • It’ll be a busy November for the Sabres, who have 14 games in 30 days this month - including three sets of back-to-back games.