BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The Sabres remained unbeaten through two exhibition games with a 2-1 win against the Flyers on Tuesday night at KeyBank Center. Brandon Biro scored both Buffalo goals, while goaltenders Craig Anderson and Malcolm Subban combined for 20 saves, each playing half of the game. Here are four observations from the victory:
Many regard the Sabres’ prospects as the best in the NHL. Granato has made an effort to give young players the opportunity to skate alongside established veterans during training camp and preseason.
The 24-year-old Biro rose to the challenge on Tuesday, nearly recording a hat track while centering a line with Alex Tuch and fellow prospect Lukas Rousek. Biro scored from the left slot off a slick backhand feed from Rousek at 8:24 of the first period, got the Sabres’ second goal from the right circle with an assist from Tuch at 8:57 of the second, and nearly netted a third when Rousek set him up in front of the net early in the third.
“Brandon had a couple of great goals,” Tuch said. “He has an ability to see the ice out there. He’s got a really good shot.”
In his rookie season playing for the Rochester Americans, Biro recorded 41 points in 48 games, scoring 12 goals. He appeared in one NHL game before missing six weeks with an injury and returning for the AHL playoffs.
Biro is “persistent, smart,” and has “enough skill,” coach Don Granato said. Granato also praised Tuch for taking Biro and Rousek under his wing.
Playing alongside Tuch “gives you a lot of confidence,” Biro said. “You can just sit back and play your game, and let him kind of lead the charge,” he added from his locker stall positioned between those of Kyle Okposo and Zemgus Girgensons, the Sabres’ returning alternate captains.
Linus Weissbach also was impressive skating on the Sabres’ top line with Tage Thompson and Jeff Skinner. Weissbach, a 24-year-old winger in his second professional season, helped his line create five scoring chances, according to NaturalStatTrick.com. He hit the post on a partial breakaway in the second period.
Matt Savoie, the 18-year-old drafted ninth overall by the Sabres in June, centered a line with Okposo and Casey Mittelstadt, while receiving some time on the power play. He’s played in both preseason wins following a strong performance in the Prospects Challenge.
“He said he’s 5-0 in a Sabres uniform right now,” Tuch said. “I’m kind of jealous.”
Back in the building
“Welcome Back,” the 2004 song by Ma$e, which samples the John Sebastian’s track of the same name that was the theme for the 1970s sitcom “Welcome Back Kotter,” played over the arena sound system before the Sabres took the ice for warmups.
It was an appropriate greeting for fans at the first home preseason game, which drew paid attendance of 9,125. While the actual crowd might not have been that large, the figure marks a nearly 15% increase from last year’s preseason contests. That is still less than half of arena capacity (19,070), and well below the average paid of attendance for exhibition games in Buffalo from 2013-19 (roughly 17,500).
Higher paid attendance for the preseason indicates a similar uptick in season-ticket sales. It is evidence that the Sabres’ strong finish to last season, along with good vibes about the culture being fostered by general manager Kevyn Adams and Granato, will juice the crowds. Relaxed pandemic restrictions also help in that regard, particularly when it comes to Canadian fans crossing the border. Buffalo’s average paid attendance in the 2021-22 regular season was 9,998. It was the lowest in franchise history, and ranked last in the NHL.
The Sabres have mostly split their roster for the preseason. The only players to dress for both games were Savoie and defenseman Lawrence Pilut, who has returned to the Sabres after two seasons in the KHL.
That meant several notable players made their seaon debuts, including star defensemen Rasmus Dahlin and Owen Power. The two former No.1 picks did not pair together. The 19-year-old Power was on the ice for 20:08 in his first NHL preseason game, paired with Henri Jokiharju, and some time on bothpower play and penalty kill units. He blocked one shot. Dahlin, the 22-year-old All-Star, led the Sabres in ice time (23:05) and shots on goal (five).
Anderson stopped eight of nine shots he faced before giving way to Subban after the 30-minute mark. Two of Subban’s 12 saves came during an 89-second stretch when Philadelphia had a 5-on-3 power play.
Dahlin, Okposo, and Girgensons were the Sabres’ alternate captains. Dylan Cozens, Vinnie Hinostrova, and defenseman Casey Fitzgerald wore the “A” during Buffalo’s preseason-opening win at Washington. After stripping the “C” from Jack Eichel last preseason and going without a captain, the Sabres plan to name a new one before their Oct. 13 opener.
The players who did not dress Tuesday night traveled to Columbus ahead of Wednesday night’s exhibition, which will be streamed on Sabres.com. The group remaining in Buffalo practices Wednesday. The next preseason game at KeyBankCenter is Saturday against the Penguins.