BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — The Buffalo Sabres' first west coast trip in over a year and a half is upon them. It'll be the first time the blue & gold face anybody west of the Mississippi since the 2019-20 season. A lot has changed since then, and if Buffalo's start is any indicator, it's for the better.
The lineup the Sabres rolled out in their 5-1 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning will make the trip out west. Forward Brett Murray and newly acquired defenseman Christian Wolanin will be the extra skaters while Buffalo waits to get one more player back.
"[Cody Eakin] wasn't out there today, so I won't expect him tomorrow," head coach Don Granato said. "We'll probably re-integrate him after tomorrow's game and then we'll get a better gauge."
When healthy, Eakin and his usual linemates are a perfect example of the balanced scoring up and down the entire lineup. Defenseman Rasmus Dahlin said going into the season opener it would take everyone. With nine points through six games, the entire lineup has been doing just that.
"Life is easier when you're winning hockey games, and I think life is easier for the coaches making decisions when you win," defenseman Robert Hagg said. "It helps that we've started good here to keep the [defense] pairings and the lines together."
"We're going to generate chances whether you're on the third line or fourth line. Every team does," Granato said. "The first two lines get great matchups. The teams are watching and making sure those guys are miserable... so you need your third and fourth line, however it lines up, to be able to produce."
Buffalo's lineup in their final skate in the Queen City didn't see any changes from their most recent game action. The forward lines and defense pairings are buzzing between the whistles. In the locker room, there's a lot of buzz to head out west.
"I'm not going to lie, I'm really looking forward to this trip," Hagg said. "To go out to dinners, and to feel like normal again, it's going to be a lot of fun. We're going to get some sun, too."
Several Sabres, including 2019 first round pick Dylan Cozens, have never experienced a coast-to-coast trip at the NHL level. Countless call-ups when Granato held the interim title have also only played at the highest level in the eastern time zone.
It'll also be the first time any Sabre, young or old, will skate in Climate Pledge Arena. Buffalo's first tilt ever with the Kraken is on deck for the upcoming trip; they'll take on Seattle on November 4.
"It's going to be cool. I mean, you've seen the fans there and the atmosphere there," defenseman Mark Pysyk said. "It's similar to Vegas when they came in. It's very exciting to go in there and play for a new fan base."
The Kraken will be the fourth and final game of Buffalo's trip; the first is a 10:00 p.m. puck drop against the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday.