Bogosian, Kane fill big holes in Sabres roster
The Sabres defense looks far more complete from top to bottom with Bogosian back in the lineup, while Kane's return solidifies the top six.
Over the past few weeks, the Buffalo Sabres have managed to gain some ground in the Atlantic Division despite a slightly undermanned roster. While they haven't been the most unlucky team in the league, the loss of defensemen Zach Bogosian in training camp and stud winger Evander Kane early in the season forced the Sabres into some interesting roster maneuvers.
Now, with Bogosian returning in their last game and Kane possibly set to return tonight, the new Sabres roster is back at full strength, and both players fill important holes we've seen open up over the past few weeks.
Bogosian's return has the defense set, but his biggest impact on the roster may be the pairings that he breaks up upon his return. The weakest part of the Sabres back end has been whatever combination of Cody Franson, Carlo Colaiacovo, and Mike Weber has been playing together - now wit Bogo back and Weber on the shelf, Mark Pysyk drops down to the third pairing with Franson while Vowels moves exactly where he should be at this point in his career, as a serviceable seventh defenseman.
Pysyk's steady play and skating ability helps to cover Franson's defensive weaknesses, and allows Cody to play more as an offensive zone/power play specialist, which is perfect for him. Bogosian has the skill to be a top-3 defender, and between him, McCabe, Gorges, and Ristolainen, the Sabres have four defenseman who can play against any lines.
Meanwhile, the forward shuffle has continued, and Dan Bylsma has trended toward spreading his talent out over the first three lines rather than condensing it into two super-lines and two meh lines. While we'd rather see Tyler Ennis on the top line and Brian Gionta on the third, spreading your talent out makes more sense the more talent you have. And what a big injection of talent the team will get with the return of Evander Kane.
The returning Kane is currently slated to play on the second line with Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart (be still, my beating heart) and makes that line one with a ton of speed and offensive ability. One thing that's been lacking in Buffalo's past few games has been vertical speed and energy out of the gate, two things which Kane brings in spades every time he steps on the ice.
With a tough upcoming schedule featuring Western Conference teams in St. Louis, Dallas again, and Nashville twice, the Sabres are getting their reinforcements back at the right time. The only important regular (sorry, Mike Weber) still on the shelf is Zemgus Girgensons, who did not travel on the team's two-game road trip, but he should be back soon and then we'll get to see what the fully armed and operational Sabres team looks like now that they've had some time to learn Bylsma's system and each other's tendencies.