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5 observations from Sabres 2-1 loss to Wild

Posted at 12:02 AM, Sep 27, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-27 00:02:59-04

It wasn’t how the Buffalo Sabres wanted to start things off — dropping the first preseason game of 2016 to the Minnesota Wild 2-1.

The Sabres scored halfway through the first period on a Zemgus Girgensons goal but couldn’t find the back of the net again. A late high-sticking penalty by Evander Kane ultimately cost the Sabres — Minnesota’s Jason Zucker scored on a rocket while on the power play with 4.6 seconds left. The score is one Sabres fans won’t be happy with, but there’s plenty of positives that can be taken from tonight’s game. Five observations from the Sabres preseason opener:

Casey Nelson standing out at both ends of the ice
After the game Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said Casey Nelson “looks like a seasoned, strong, NHL veteran on the back side.” I thought Nelson was one of, if not the best Sabres on the ice. He got a ton of ice time on the first pair with veteran Josh Gorges and played in every situation. It says a lot about the Sabres trust in Nelson that he was on the ice in the final seconds during a 4-3 penalty kill. Ultimately, Nelson didn’t get the job done at the end of the game but that’s a tough position to be thrown into. The 24-year-old defenseman made a great play on the Sabres first goal getting the puck to net through traffic allowing Girgensons to put home a juicy rebound. Last month I didn’t know where Nelson would spend this season, but if he keeps up his solid play, it’ll be with the Sabres.

A dream come true for the “SHOOT THE PUCK” guy in the stands

Four minutes into the first period the Sabres were being outshot 8-0. They allowed three more shots the entire period and recorded 17 of their own. In the second they tallied 13, and in the third they ‘only’ recorded 10. They finished the night with 40 shots, which is something Bylsma said after the game, “that’s the way we want to play.” The Sabres in the 2014-2015 season had games where they finished with 17 shots, so 40 should be a number Sabres fans like to see. Of course the quality of the shots is important, but the more that get to the net, the more that go in.

Girgensons building confidence early
After the game Girgensons kind of played his goal off like it wasn’t a big deal. "It’s always a good feeling when it crosses the line, so, it’s nice to get that one,” he said. Girgensons is coming off a down year and is on a one-year, ‘prove-it’ contract this season. The 21-year-old forward needs to prove he’s worth another contract or this may be one of his last seasons in Buffalo. I think Girgensons will have a nice season, and if tonight is any indication of what’s to come, Sabres fans shouldn’t give up on the Latvian Locomotive just yet.

Nilsson for the Vezina
Okay, maybe that’s a stretch — but the Sabres new goalie turned away 26 of the 27 shots he faced, and the only goal he let in was off a weird bounce. Nilsson has had a nice camp, and in two scrimmages along with tonight’s pre season game, has only allowed one goal. “My job is to stop the puck,” Nilsson said after the game. “I’m trying to do that every day when I come to the rink, whether it’s a practice, a scrimmage or a preseason game.” Well, Nilsson is doing a good job of that and has absolutely looked like a solid backup so far.

Evander Kane still loves shooting the puck
Kane made a very costly mistake late which led to the Wild’s game winning goal, but he had a nice game otherwise. The Sabres forward finished with seven shots and laid down some pretty nasty hits, too. “I thought right from the start of the game you saw the type of game Evander can play,” Bylsma told reporters. “I challenged the guys to show their game and Evander showed it pretty much the whole game long.” Kane will likely be in the Sabres top-six and has been getting a lot of work with forward Sam Reinhart. If he can clear some lanes and make some plays with his body, that pair could do some damage.

The Sabres won’t wait long until their next game — they host Ottawa at Key Bank Center Tuesday night at 7 p.m.