Sabres' Ristolainen thinks his game can be even better.

February 23, 2018
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Arlington, VA (WGR 550) - For the most part, Rasmus Ristolainen has been much better since the flameout game he had on Feb. 11 against Colorado.

Yes, there was the very casual drop pass giveaway that led to Washington’s game winning goal, but he was very good in Detroit on Thursday.

Ristolainen had a goal and an assist and played 28 minutes against the Red Wings. He had three shots, three hits and four blocked shots. Ristolainen liked his performance at both ends of the ice, “Yes, it was the right game and right now what matters are the wins and it was a good battle.”

Ristolainen had a lot of disgust in his voice when he thought back to how he played against the Avalanche. Ristolainen said, “In that game I didn’t do anything well, so in every way it’s been better, but I still have another level and I’ll try to reach it before the season is over.”

I thought that was an interesting comment. My first thought was what would that extra level look like? Ristolainen explained, “It means I take charge, everything works, I’m breaking out the puck well, making plays in the O-zone, just doing whatever it takes to win the game.”

Phil Housley benched Ristolainen for part of the Colorado game. The head coach likes the response he’s gotten, “He has really responded well. I think his game has gotten back to where it should be, not because he’s getting production, I think his confidence and compete and his battle.

“He leans on guys, he’s physical, he just has more urgency in his game and because of that, I think he’s getting rewarded in the production area.”

In their last six road games the Sabres are 5-0-1. Their overall record away from the arena is 10-14-8 which is a point percentage of .438. Ristolainen said, “I don’t know, but I think the last few years we’ve been better on the road. The record has been better, I don’t know what’s the reason, but somehow we’ve got to keep going with what we do on the road and then play better at home.”

When the Capitals were in town on Feb, 19, I stood next to Alex Ovechkin. I never realized how thick this guy is. Ristolainen will be on the ice against him a lot. He loves games like that, “I enjoy a heavy game, a physical game and tomorrow it’s going to be one, so I’m excited, I’m ready and that’s my style, you’ve got to be physical, get hits and that’s when I’m at my best.”

The Sabres practiced for almost 45 minutes on Friday Housley made only one line change,

 

Kane  O’Reilly  Reinhart

Girgensons  Rodrigues  Okposo

Wilson  Larsson  Pominville

Pouliot  Josefson  Nolan

 

Nick Baptiste practiced on defense with Justin Falk. I totally understand that it’s easier to practice with four pairs of defensemen, but Baptiste is still a young forward trying to find his way in the NHL. Having him practice on defense is a total waste of his time.