After morning skate and ahead of the Sabres’ second preseason game against the Pittsburgh Penguins Tuesday night, Jack Eichel stood at his locker and acknowledged things might be a little sloppy as guys continue to gear up for the regular season.
“Everything is not going to be perfect. It’s not going to be as crisp as it will be in the regular season,” he said.
But, in the second period, the Sabres’ star centerman looked to be in mid-season form.
Eichel after morning skate:
“Everything is not going to be perfect, it’s not going to be as crisp as it will be in the regular season.”
HE THEN DID THIS SHORT HANDED ⬇️⬇️⬇️ #Sabres https://t.co/4K4doThLg0— Nick Filipowski (@NEWS4_NICK) September 19, 2018
Down a man, newly acquired defenseman Lawrence Pilut cleared the puck, sending it skyward toward center ice. As it bounced, Eichel sped through the neutral zone, corralled the puck, and then put the moves on Penguins goalie Casey DeSmith for his first goal of the preseason to help lead Buffalo to a 3-2 win.
Eichel added an assist on Buffalo’s opening tally, sending a pass through the crease which eventually found the back of the net thanks to Vladimir Sobotka.
Rasmus Dahlin made his debut with the Blue & Gold, drew a few “oohs” and “ahhs” from the crowd inside KeyBank Center and sent social media into a frenzy with his signature dangles.
The No. 1 overall pick in June showed his ability to facilitate and create — like many witnessed thanks to YouTube and his highlight reel efforts on a nightly basis with Frolunda in Swedish Hockey League.
“He makes it look so effortless,” Casey Mittelstadt said after the game. “I think it’s kind of like (Jack Eichel) they’re just gliding up the ice and then it’s like they’ve glided past three guys. It’s pretty impressive and obviously he’ll get more comfortable and only get better.”
“He was calm but I think he needed a bit more urgency in the first period just getting pucks up the ice,” head coach Phil Housley said after the game.
“He got stripped a couple of times, but that’s just a young hockey player getting adjusted. Certainly he created a lot of stuff for us finding open people. The one thing I really like, every shot he takes it seems to hit the net. His development is where it needs to be right now.”
Dahlin had a nifty breakout early in the first. The 18-year-old started at the goalline next to Carter Hutton, pushed the puck to Jake McCabe on a breakout which lead to a scoring opportunity for Sobotka.
“I’m a bad judge of talent but he’s a (heck of a) skate, that’s for sure,” Hutton said. “It’s going to be fun to play with him all year.”
Carter Hutton on Rasmus Dahlin: “I’m a bad judge of talent but he’s a helluva skater, that’s for sure. It’s going to be fun to play with him all year.” #Sabres⚔️ @news4buffalo pic.twitter.com/6zRCSMvg2E— Nick Filipowski (@NEWS4_NICK) September 19, 2018
In the second period Dahlin joined the rush and made a nice pass to CJ Smith in the slot, although that opportunity came up short as well.
There were learning moments as well for the young defenseman. In the first period, he tried to dangle around Derek Grant exiting the zone. Grant poked the puck away with ease.
It was mostly a standout night for the blueliners which included a tally from McCabe to give Buffalo a 2-0 lead.
Hutton saw his first action of the preseason and turned away all 14 shots he faced through two periods of action. He was replaced by Scott Wedgewood in the third period.
The Sabres return to the ice Friday and Saturday for a home-and-home series against John Tavares and the Toronto Maple Leafs.