Sabres' Ristolainen is no longer with Scandella

February 8, 2018

Buffalo, NY (WGR 550) - With the poor play of Rasmus Ristolainen the last four games, Phil Housley feels he has to change up the defensive pairings.

This morning it was:

Scandella - Nelson

Beauleau - Ristolainen

Gorges - Antipin

Wilson - Falk

Ristolainen struggled mightily against the Ducks and Phil Housley said, “He knows. He understands he hasn’t played well since the All-Star break and he puts enough pressure on himself. I have no problem with the way he’s been competing down low and the battle, I think just execution on passes and getting shots to the net has to be better.”

Ristolainen plays 26:27 per-game, which is third in the NHL behind Ryan Suter of the Wild and Drew Doughty of the Kings. Doughty plays 27:04 per game. Housley said he would like to reduce the time Ristolainen is on the ice, “He’s going to get above 25 minutes depending on what type of game it is, but I feel if we can keep him around 24 or around 25, that’s where he’s at his best.

“Anybody that plays more than that when you build that through the first period and he’s been out there a lot, it just seems like his process is slow, his passes are slow, he’s slow to react, so we’re going to try to keep him at a good number.”

Ristolainen has played under 25 minutes just eight times this season. Last game against the Ducks, he played a season high 32:39.

Evan Rodrigues played on the wing with Jack Eichel when they were at Boston University together. Eichel had 26 goals and 45 assists for 71 points in 40 games while Rodrigues had 21 goals and 40 assists for 61 points in 41 games. Housley said when he shuffles lines, he’s looking for one thing, “I think just some chemistry, now that Larsson back in the lineup, we have four centers, I’m just trying to change different things and trying it get everybody going and I think Roger could have good chemistry with Jack with their history.”

The lines were:

Rodrigues - Eichel - Reinhart

Kane - O’Reilly - Okposo

Girgensons - Larsson - Pominville

Pouliot - Josefson - Nolan

Robin Lehner will be in goal for Buffalo. He and his teammates will be wearing their Winter Classic white uniforms on Thursday, but Lehner said he will not be wearing the mask he wore that day.

The Sabres are 28th in team goaltending and defense, but the Islanders are dead last in the NHL giving up 3.63 goals per-game. New York is also has injuries on defense with Calvin de Haan, Johnny Boychuk and Scott Mayfield out.

New York’s offense is so good, it’s tied with Columbus for the Eastern Conference’s final Wild Card spot. The Islanders are four points in back of third place New Jersey in the Metropolitan Division. The Islanders are third in the league in goals for scoring 3.30 goals per-game.

John Tavares leads the way with 27 goals and 32 assists for 59 points in 54 games.

Josh Bailey is having a breakout year with 44 assists and 57 points in 50 games. That is already a career high for Bailey in both categories.  

Matt Barzal leads NHL rookies with 53 points in 54 games. His 16 goals ranks him fifth amongst rookies.

Join Schopp and the Bulldog for pregame at 6:00 live from (716) Food and Sport when they’ll be joined by Phil Housley, Evan Rodrigues and Casey Nelson.