Preview: Ottawa at Buffalo
When: 7:00 PM ET, Thursday, October 8, 2015
Where: First Niagara Center, Buffalo, New York
The Buffalo Sabres will usher in the Jack Eichel Era on Thursday when they open the 2015-16 season at home against the Atlantic Division-rival Ottawa Senators. Eichel capped a scintillating freshman year at Boston University by winning the 2015 Hobey Baker Award in April before being selected with the second overall pick of the NHL draft two months later.
“I’m really excited about it,” the 18-year-old Eichel told reporters of making his NHL debut. “I have a lot of family and friends coming in, so it’s going to be a special moment for me. It’s something I’ve dreamed of my whole life; stepping foot on that ice and making the NHL.” While Eichel should battle Edmonton’s Connor McDavid for the Calder Trophy, Buffalo is in the early steps of an extreme overhaul and likely will struggle mightily in the standings in 2015-16. Ottawa finished the 2014-15 regular season with a flourish, posting a 23-4-4 mark to earn a playoff berth before bowing to Montreal in the first round.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, RDS (Ottawa), MSG-B (Buffalo)
ABOUT THE SENATORS (2014-15: 43-26-13, 4TH IN ATLANTIC): Erik Karlsson caused a stir over social media on Wednesday when pictures surfaced of the two-time Norris Trophy winner without his flowing locks. Regardless of the length of his hair, Karlsson likely will continue to be an offensive force after recording a team-leading 66 points while playing in all 82 games last season. Bobby Ryan mustered just 18 goals in 2014-15, although four were scored versus Buffalo.
ABOUT THE SABRES (2014-15: 23-51-8, 8TH IN ATLANTIC): After finishing with a league-low 54 points, Buffalo moved quickly by naming Dan Bylsma as its new coach and adding Ryan O’Reilly to join Evander Kane and Tyler Ennis on the top line. O’Reilly signed a seven-year, $52.5 million contract extension in the summer before life took a turn for the worse. He was charged with impaired driving and leaving the scene of an accident after allegedly driving his truck into the side of a Tim Horton’s in Ontario. O’Reilly apologized and admitted he was embarrassed by the incident, which is still under legal investigation.
1. Ottawa’s Craig Anderson will begin the season as the team’s top goaltender with Andrew Hammond sidelined two weeks with a groin injury. Former Senators G Robin Lehner will start for Buffalo.
2. The Sabres finished last in the league in goals scored (153) as well as both power-play (13.4) and penalty kill (75.1) efficiency.
3. Ottawa RW Mark Stone recorded two goals and three assists in four meetings with Buffalo last season.
PREDICTION: Senators 4, Sabres 2