BUFFALO – In training camp, Sabres coach Don Granato said he believed winger Victor Olofsson would grow this year after having the summer to process his late-season struggles.
Over the years, Olofsson, 28, has shown he’s cognizant of his deficiencies and willing to evolve. Last season, despite losing his spot in the lineup late, he scored 21 even-strength goals, two more than he had in the previous two years combined.
But three games into the new campaign, the Sabres scratched Olofsson. Center Tyson Jost replaced him for Tuesday’s 3-2 overtime win against the Tampa Bay Lightning in KeyBank Center.
Of course, it’s still early. Olofsson was one eight forwards who had a minus rating and zero points as the Sabres scored just three goals while opening the season 0-2.
Granato wanted to make sure Jost, a regular last season, did not wait long to play, so Olofsson sat out.
“I don’t question his effort, his intent, they’re both very high,” Granato said of Olofsson. “He cares a lot about his teammates and the team. And somebody has to come out for somebody to go in. And we felt we needed to put somebody else in.
“Every player’s details can be better. And that was a message I’d give anybody that’s coming out of the lineup. Be better in those areas when you’re in a lineup.”
Olofsson, a notoriously streaky scorer, just experienced an odd season in which he registered a career-high 28 goals but sat out five critical late-season games. He compiled an awful minus-23 rating, the worst number among the team’s forwards.
Jost took Peyton Krebs’ spot between Zemgus Girgensons and captain Kyle Okposo. Krebs moved up to Olofsson’s spot at right wing with center Dylan Cozens and JJ Peterka.
“We’ll see how that looks with Krebs, Cozens and Peterka – three young guys together,” Granato said. “That was the driving force of it.”
Jost, 25, played 59 games last season after the Sabres claimed him off waivers last from the Minnesota Wild, establishing himself as a sturdy presence on the third or fourth line. He signed a one-year, $2 million contract to return.
“I believe in this group and the coaching staff and the management,” said Jost, who recorded the primary assist on Girgensons’ early goal.
Granato said Jost, the 10th overall pick by the Colorado Avalanche in 2016, “means lot to the guys in the locker room.”
“He’s a very good role model for his young players,” he said. “He’s walked the walk very recently. He’s got a few hundred games in the NHL, but he’s still very young and very in-tune with being young. He’s helped JJ Peterka, he’s helped all our guys that are younger than him, especially his path going from Colorado to Minnesota to here.
“It’s just a different perspective that he’s shared with guys. And then as an athlete, he’s an incredible athlete.”
Former Sabres goalie Jonas Johansson started Tuesday, his third nod in four games for the Lightning this season.
With Andrei Vasilevskiy injured, Johansson, 28, has temporarily assumed the No. 1 job.
The Swede spent the last four years shuttling between the AHL and NHL. Tuesday was just his 38th big league outing.
He played his first six NHL games for the Sabres in 2019-20 and another seven in 2020-21 before they traded him to the Colorado Avalanche.
Following last season, Johansson signed a two-year contract with the Farjestad BK, a Swedish Hockey League team. He had a change of heart, however, and inked a two-year deal with the Lightning.
“Timing’s everything and you got to find your spot,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “It can be grueling mentally for the goalies not to get their chance in the NHL. And so I think he’s ready. … When your time’s ready, you got to jump at it.
“That’s what I love about JJ. He’s kept at it, he’s kept working at his game. Now he’s got an opportunity and he’s seizing it. Plus he’s a Swede, so, like, I’ve never met a bad one. They’re like the nicest guys ever.”
Notes: The Sabres also scratched defenseman Jacob Bryson and goalie Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (healthy). … Lightning captain Steven Stamkos missed his second straight game (lower body). … Former Buffalo goalie Craig Anderson pumped up the crowd prior to the opening faceoff by beating a Sabres drum.