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5 Observtions: Gionta, Sabres beat Panthers 4-2

5 Observtions: Gionta, Sabres beat Panthers 4-2
Posted at 10:59 PM, Mar 27, 2017

"I'm just a humble kid from Western New York. I just tried to take it all in."

That's what Sabres captain Brian Gionta had to say after Monday's 4-2 win over the Florida Panthers. It was a night that Gionta will surely never forget.

G1000nta

On Monday the 38-year-old became just the 312th player in NHL history to play 1,000 games. The Rochester native also becomes only the 43rd American to reach the milestone.

But wait, there's more. In the second period, Gionta scored his 15th goal of the season on the Sabres second power play of the evening. It turned out that the goal was also the game-winner. Doesn't get much more fitting than that.

"It was an emotional night and a great thing the organziation did and my teammates being a part of it was pretty special" Gionta added. "To see my family out there, it was pretty emotional and I'm just happy to of got through it and have them share in the moment."

The Sabres honored Gionta will this pregame video:

Life without Rasmus Ristolainen

The Sabres are now 2-0 without Ristolainen this season.

Hack.

Quality goaltending and improved defense have certainly helped, but the biggest difference has been the Sabres offensive production. In their previous five games [before Ristolainen suspension] the Sabres scored six goals in five games [1.25 goals per game]. In their last two games, the Sabres have found the back of the net 9 times [4.5 goals per game].

What has also been surprising was how effective the team has been without Assistolainen. In Buffalo's last two outings they are 4-for-5 with the man advantage. No one is suggesting the Sabres are better without Ristolainen, that would be ludicrous, but it has been nice to see the other guys step up during his absence.

Another Eichel observation

Jack Eichel is now averaging a point per game. In 55 games played since returning from injury Eichel has scored 23 goals and added 32 assists [55 points].

Last year Eichel finished his rookie season with 56 points in 81 games played.

Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby, Patrick Kane, Brad Marchand, Nicklas Backstrom, Nikita Kucherov, Mark Scheifele and Evgeni Malkin are the only other players to average a point per game [minimum 50 games played]. 

Lehner looks good yet again

Robin Lehner turned away 30 of Florida's 32 shots including all 15 in the third period. His biggest save of the evening came when he stopped Reilly Smith on a penalty shot in the final period. Smith tried to fool Lehner with a forehand-backhand move, but Lehner turned him away.

Lately, Lehner has been one of the Sabres best players. Night after night he seems locked in and calm between the pipes. 

Make or break time

81

That's how many points the Sabres had last season. They currently have 76 points [in 76 games played]. That leaves the Sabres with six games to get at least six points, which would surpass last year's total. I don't think anyone is content with how this season has gone, but with the injuries the team has suffered a nice little run down the stretch could give fans something to be optimistic about moving forward. If that run doesn't happen at least Sabres fans have Jack Eichel to be excited about.