Sabres' Housley knows that he and the players must improve

February 28, 2018
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Tampa, FL (WGR 550) - The Sabres will be playing their first game since the trade deadline. Buffalo has 19 games left and even if they win all of them, they won’t have enough points to make the playoffs. On Monday, Jason Botterill said you can’t blame just one group for this unacceptable season. He said it’s on him, the coaching staff and the players. Phil Housley knows everybody is on notice, “Those guys in that room and the coaching staff, we have a lot to prove leading into the summer.

“Obviously my vision wasn’t going to be where we are right now coming into this year. It’s been a lot of growing pains, a lot of teaching moments so what can we control? We have a group of players in there that have a lot to prove, a coaching staff that has a lot to prove.”

In the last 10 games the Sabres are 5-4-1. They’ve beaten Boston twice and Tampa Bay once. They have also stunk out the joint against Los Angeles, Colorado and Washington. Housley said as long as they keep this ping-pong thing going, they won’t be good, “We’re going to have to see consistency. If you look at our team, we’re a team that doesn’t handle success very well.

“I like the challenge that we’re facing some really tough teams and we’ll really get a good evaluation on our guys.”

The first challenge comes tonight as the Sabres visit Tampa Bay for the first time. The teams have split two games in Buffalo.

Chad Johnson was in net for three of those five wins and will get his fifth game out of 10. In those five games his goals against average is 1.88 with a .937 save percentage.

For some reason many have it in their heads that Victor Antipin is a constant scratch. Since coming back from illness he’s played 14 out of 16 games and is doing rather well. Housley is giving the Russian defenseman time on the second power play and the head coach said he’s earned everything he’s getting, “I’ve really like what I’ve seen from Victor lately. I think he’s in control, his defense is really good, he’s got a good stick, he closes quick on guys, I like the way he’s moving the puck, it just feels like he’s playing with a lot more confidence and since he’s been paired with Nelson, I think he’s risen to the challenge.”

Kyle Okposo’s wife had a baby girl, so that means Okposo will not play against the Lightning. He will rejoin the team in time for Friday’s game in Florida.

The players will be wearing a sticker on their helmets honoring victims of the Stoneman Douglas shooting.

 

Wednesday’s lines were:

Girgensons  O’Reilly  Reinhart

Wilson  Rodrigues  Pominville

Pouliot  Larsson  Baptiste

Nolan  Josefson  Griffith

 

Scandella  Ristolainen

Antipin  Nelson

Falk  Beaulieu

 

Tampa Bay is four points in front of Toronto in the Atlantic Division. The Lightning are 15-3-1 in their last 19 against Buffalo.

Jon Cooper said the NHL's leading scorer, Nikita Kucherov is doubtful for this game and newly acquired defenseman Ryan McDonagh is still out. Former Ranger J.T. Miller will play his first game for Tampa Bay.

The Lightning have won four straight games and five out of six since losing in Buffalo. The have scored four goals in five out of their last six games.

Andrei Vasilevskiy has played in net 11 out of the last 13 games. Overall the All-Star goalie is 37-12-2 with a 2.35 goals against and .927 save percentage.

Steven Stamkos has 71 points in 63 games. He has points in three straight games.

Victor Hedman has three goals and eight assists for 11 points in his last 12 games.

Join the Bulldog for the pregame at 6:00 when he’ll be joined by Phil Housley, Robin Lehner and Seth Griffith.