BUFFALO – In his three NHL seasons, Rasmus Ristolainen’s close friends from his native Finland had never seen him play in person. Naturally, the defenseman wanted to make their first experience worthwhile, so he figured they should watch him in Montreal’s Bell Centre, one of the league’s best venues.
On Wednesday, five friends saw Ristolainen play in the Sabres’ 4-2 comeback win against the Canadiens. TV cameras caught the group clad in blue No. 55 Ristolainen jerseys and kept showing them throughout the game.
Not surprisingly, social media started buzzing about the pack of Ristolainen faithful. Following the game, the group posed for a photo the Sabres tweeted.
Ristolainen said his friends, who came here for the NHL All-Star break and are staying a week, will attend tonight’s home tilt against the Boston Bruins.
“I think they’re wearing my jerseys tonight, too,” Ristolainen said this morning.
The experience, he said, “was neat.”
“They wanted to come for one road game,” Ristolainen said. “I think the game against Montreal was pretty good. It’s good atmosphere there. We got a good win, too, so it was nice.”
The Sabres, however, don’t win too much at home. They’re a league-worst 9-15-2 and just 1-6-1 in their last eight contests.
Clearly, the Sabres need to bring a road mentality to the First Niagara Center. They’re 12-11-2 on the road and have won two straight games in which they roared back or broke a third-period tie.
On Wednesday, they scored three third-period goals.
“I like the way we came out in the third and battled and stuck with it,” Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. “We believed in our room if we did come out and play and well and hard, we could win the hockey game. And that’s what I liked about what our team did in the third.”
Goalie Chad Johnson will start for the Sabres. No. 1 netminder Robin Lehner look strong again against the Habs, but has only played five times since returning from his high ankle sprain. The Sabres also play Saturday in Boston.
“Playing three in four, the plan was to have Robin in game one and Chad in game two,” Bylsma said.
The rest of the lineup will stay the same, meaning defensemen Carlo Colaiacovo and Mike Weber will sit.
Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask will start tonight, his first nod in Buffalo, somewhat incredibly, since Feb. 24, 2012.
— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) February 4, 2016