By Budd Bailey, Buffalo Sports Page Columnist
It was more or less business as usual when the Sabres met the Maple Leafs on Saturday night at the KeyBank Center.
In other words, no one on the Buffalo roster retired during one of the intermissions. At least that we know of.
We’re probably going to have to ask that after every professional sports game in this city for a while. Thank you, Vontae Davis.
For the record, the Maple Leafs came away with a 3-2 win over the Sabres before 17, 624 who were as usual divided in their loyalties. It was Rasmus Dahlin’s first look at the rivalry between the two teams, and he gave the impression that he enjoyed that aspect of the night.
“It was nice – really cool,” he said. “It was a fun game.”
It was a rather loose, entertaining game by preseason standards. There were plenty of scoring opportunities, as Buffalo finished with a 35-31 edge in shots.
SAM RETURNS TO DUTY
In games like this, it’s easy to check up on some individuals on the Buffalo roster who were of interest. For example, it was Sam Reinhart’s first game after missing some time while waiting for a contract to be signed.
“I think the first period helped, getting a couple of power plays and feeling the ice a little bit,” the forward said. “I think it was a little bit more challenging in the second and third. The pace picked up on the five-on-five level and the compete level. Overall, I thought the legs handled it well and obviously I’m feeling better each time.”
“I thought he was one of our best forwards,” coach Phil Housley added. “He looked very comfortable. He fit right in. He was on the puck, making plays he was trying to make a difference tonight.”
Reinhart got off to a good start, as he had an assist on a Buffalo goal by Kyle Okposo that opened the scoring. Reinhart’s biggest contribution to the goal, though, was that he did an excellent job of screening goalie Frederik Andersen of the Maple Leafs on the play. It was a reminder of what Reinhart did in the second half of last season when he turned his game around.
“There were certainly times where there were plays I need to clean up,” he said. “I think the conditioning will come, when I get more reps and more practice. The pace in practice is going to stay up, and that’s going to really help as well.”
Reinhart also added an assist on Jeff Skinner’s goal late in the second period.
Dahlin is going to be under the microscope throughout the season, and he’ll learn some lessons along the way. One of them was provided by Professor Patrick Marleau, who tipped a puck past Dahlin and took off on the other end. Dahlin thus joined a not-so-exclusive club in that sense.
“He’s a young man, and he’s going to make mistakes,” Housley said. “One thing that will be hard for him is knowing who is going to be playing against. … That’s going to take some time. But he’s pretty cool and calm. We’re going to have some growing pains, but he still makes the plays. He’s very confident in these things.”
THANKS FOR THE HELP
Goalie Carter Hutton helped bail out Rasmus on that play, and he made a lot of other ones in a strong performance in a game that did not exactly stress defense.
“He was great,” Dahlin said about his goalie. “He saved us a lot of times. He’s really good with the puck.”
Hutton played the entire game, giving up three goals on the 31 shots. It could have been worse. He still looks like an opening night starter, at least at this point.
“He was excellent again tonight,” Housley said. “He really kept us in there, especially in the first period where they had some opportunities.
“It’s great that he can play the puck. You can see the way he can break it out for us and get us on the attack. He is a dangerous weapon out there.”
Buffalo has three more preseason games left, as the team will play three games in four days – all away from Buffalo.
We’ll be taking attendance at those games too.)
(Follow Budd on Twitter @WDX2BB)