The Buffalo Sabres returned home for the second of five straight games on Saturday afternoon to play the Chicago Blackhawks. Even better, the return of forward Jack Eichel after missing 15 games due to an injury. His presence back on the ice was surely felt as he skated through defensemen and kept control of the puck.
Western New York’s own gold medalist Emily Pfazler dropped the ceremonial puck before the game with her medal around her neck. What a moment.
The Sabres came into todays game feeling more ready than last, scoring five goals to get the win 5-3. This is the first time since 2009 that the Sabres have beat the Blackhawks; so it has been a while.
Forward Sam Reinhart had two assists and a goal, and Nicholas Baptiste scored two in a row to sweep the Blackhawks. Chad Johnson played a good game, only letting 3 out of 37 shots on goal.
The team moves up one spot from the worst record in the league with 58 points, while the Arizona Coyotes are close behind with 57 points. The Blackhawks have lost two in a row, and their playoff hopes are slipping away as they get lower and lower on the depth chart.
“When we got a chance to play together, I think we all had a little extra giddy-up to our step, and I think we showed that.” – Evan Rodrigues
The team played a lot more efficient and complete today; finishing passes and rushing the net with more energy to get the puck into the net. With Jack Eichel back, it seems the team mentally played better as well. They were lost in a hole without their star center.
The blue and gold got the first goal on the board minutes into the game with a great pass from defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen to the front of the net and knocked in by forward Benoit Pouliot for his thirteenth of the season. Ryan O’Reilly got his 20th goal of the season on the power play from Sam Reinhart and Jack Eichel.
For Chicago, Jordan Oesterle, scored their first goal of the game in the first period. Forward Thomas Turco and captain Jonathan Toews scored the rest of the Hawks goals. Goaltender
Zemgus Girgensons left the game with 8:41 remaining in the first period, after being slow to get along the boards.
The Buffalo Sabres will welcome the league’s best team, the Nashville Predators, to KeyBank Center on Monday with a 7:00 PM start time. The Preds have been on fire. Already clinching a playoff spot and an astonishing home and away record, this team will be hard to beat.