The Sabres defense has scored six goals in the first nine games

October 24, 2018
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Buffalo, NY (WGR 550) - Six of the Sabres seven defensemen have scored a goal this season with Casey Nelson the only one not on the board. Last season it took until December to get one from the back end. I had wondered if Phil Housley and tweaked his system over the summer, but he said it’s because of a different reason, “I think they’re just executing better. I think a lot of that has to do with the forwards going to the net front and taking the goalie’s eyes away, but I’ve liked the way they’ve added to the rush, so we’ve got to continue to do that as a five man unit coming up the ice because in the offensive zone they’re a big part of our attack.”

Jake McCabe was the first defenseman to score last season and has a goal and two assists this year. McCabe said, “We’re just executing better. Everyone is contributing from the back end, everyone can skate from the back end, so we’re all playing good minutes and everyone is getting into the game.”

Zach Bogosian said he wouldn’t have scored his goal without Patrik Berglund in front. McCabe said, “Getting bodies there is key, get some greasy goals and we finally started doing that at the end of the road trip.”

Bogosian has a goal and an assist in his four games. He said Housley is sticking with the system, “I don’t think he’s tweaked much, I just think we’ve played better overall hockey, like we’ve executed better.

“I think we have some pretty skilled defensemen back there plus we’ve had better net front presence, so I don’t know if you can pinpoint one thing, but I think overall as a group we’re playing better.”

Rasmus Ristolainen leads the Sabres defensemen with a goal and three assists. McCabe and Rasmus Dahlin are next with three points each. Marco Scandella and Bogosian have two while Nate Beaulieu has one.

In practice on Wednesday, Jack Eichel took a hard shot in the ankle from Jason Pominville. He had trouble putting weight on it and limped for a few minutes. His next two shifts he skated gingerly, but he shook it off by the end of practice and is fine.

After two convincing wins in Los Angeles and Anaheim, Housley didn’t change the lines or the defense for practice.

I asked Housley about the progress of Matt Hunwick who has been away from the team on the ice for over a month with a neck injury. Housley abruptly just referred me to the injury report from the first week of the season.