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Players to watch: Sabres vs. Flames (Oct. 18)

Players to watch: Sabres vs. Flames (Oct. 18)
Posted at 5:25 PM, Oct 18, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-18 17:25:28-04

The Buffalo Sabres will look for their second win against a Calgary Flames team who is still looking to earn their first victory. In Calgary’s first three games the Flames are 0-2-1 while the Sabres are 1-1-0 in their first two outings.

Buffalo rebounded after a flat performance in their first game on Sunday night, routing the Edmonton Oilers 6-2. Tuesday, the Sabres will take on a team very similar to the Oilers, but Sabres forward Ryan O’Reilly says he expects the game to go very differently. Both Calgary and Edmonton are quick teams, both incredibly young and both have question marks on the back end and in goal.

No, I don’t think Buffalo will put up another half dozen, but another win could certainly do a lot for their confidence early in the year. A few players I’m watching during tonight’s matchup:

Nick Baptiste:
Baptiste will make his NHL debut for the Sabres Tuesday night against the Flames. The 21-year-old forward is coming off an impressive training camp and preseason and will look to make an impact for the Sabres right off the bat. During the morning skate, Baptiste was paired with Derek Grant and Matt Moulson. During the preseason -- especially early on -- Grant and Baptiste combined for several goals and made up most of the Sabres offensive production. Baptiste said he’s just trying to play his game and the points will come. With injuries to Jack Eichel and Evander Kane, this is the start of a golden opportunity for the young prospect.

Tyler Ennis:
It’s only been two games so I won’t get ahead of myself – but I haven’t seen much out of Ennis early on. Coming into this season, there were big expectations for Ennis to return to the prolific player he was in 2013 and 2014. So far, he hasn’t done that. If the Sabres are going to stay around .500 while they deal with their injury woes, Ennis will need to step up. The Sabres can’t rely on the Okposo-O’Reilly-Reinhart line for everything.

Johnny Gaudreau:
For my money, Calgary Flames forward Johnny Gaudreau is one of the most exciting players in the NHL. The casual NHL fan got a glimpse of 'Johnny Hockey' during the World Cup of Hockey – but his game is still overlooked by many, especially in the United States. Gaudreau is incredibly fast and can find the back of the net at any given moment. He, and center Sean Monahan can open up a game quite quickly. The Sabres will need to contain their speed, similarly to how they managed to contain McDavid and the Oilers on Sunday.

Chad Johnson:
We meet again, Mr. Johnson. In 2015, I thought Chad Johnson was the perfect backup goalie. In the offseason he returned home to Calgary where this year he’ll likely have an expanded role. Johnson isn’t an elite NHL goaltender, but he by no means is a goalie the Sabres should overlook. In his first outing of the season Johnson only allowed one goal in a shootout loss to the Vancouver Canucks, who the Sabres play Thursday. 

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