Hockey season is back.
While we’re still 17 days from the opening of Penn State’s season, fans in Happy Valley may get their fill before the Nittany Lions face the University of Ottawa on October 1 as Pegula Ice Arena hosts its second NHL preseason game Tuesday night.
Some familiar faces may return to State College as the Buffalo Sabres are making their second appearance in central Pennsylvania, facing off against the back-to-back Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins at 7:00 p.m.
While last year’s matchup between the Sabres and Minnesota Wild garnered plenty of attention, the hype surrounding this year’s contest is sure to one up the Sabres/Wild contest.
Scouting the Matchup
The back-to-back Stanley Cup champions will likely use this preseason to give their prospects a taste of NHL action. Those with a strong showing may earn a shot with the big club, while the rest will be sent to the American Hockey League or Juniors for more seasoning.
Head coach Mike Sullivan said as much earlier in the offseason.
“There will be a fair amount of kids,” Sullivan told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “There will be a fair amount of young guys. We’re trying to give them opportunities to play their game. It gives us an opportunity to familiarize ourselves with them, their tendencies, their strengths and their weaknesses. These first few games are great opportunities for those guys to play their game.”
Some established veterans will appear Tuesday evening, as forwards Jay McClement and Carl Hagelin, defenseman Olli Maatta and goalie Antti Niemi will be in the lineup.
McClement will be the only one of that group looking to secure a roster spot, as he joined the Penguins on a professional tryout contract on August 25. Sam Kasan listed the 13-year veteran as an option as third line center, though he may be better suited in the fourth line role.
Head coach Phil Housley hasn’t yet announced his lineup for Tuesday’s game, but the Sabres opened their preseason last night against Carolina, so we’re likely to see the remainder of their training camp roster (link) who didn’t face the Hurricanes.
The Sabres will be in a similar position as the Penguins as they’ll want to get a clearer look at their prospects who will be trying to snag an NHL roster spot.
Unlike the Penguins, who still appear to be in the middle of their Stanley Cup window, the Sabres are simply looking to stay competitive over a full season and challenge for a playoff position. They finished with the second-worst record in the Eastern Conference last season, the third time in four seasons they’ve landed at the bottom of the Atlantic Division.
A stockpile of high draft picks has created a bright future for the Sabres, however. The Sabres have been fortunate enough to draft a franchise defenseman in Rasmus Ristolainen as well as a number of skilled players in Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart and Alexander Nylander.
The Sabres have brought some stars and have given fans of #cawlidgehawkey a reason to get excited about Tuesday’s game.
#Sabres lines vs. Pens:— Jourdon LaBarber (@JourdonLaBarber) September 19, 2017
Eichel played his freshman year at Boston University, during which he won the Hobey Baker Award after posting 71 points in 40 games.