BUFFALO – In the beginning of training camp, coach Don Granato said the Sabres penciled prospect Zach Benson in for three preseason games, a number he will hit tonight against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
But Benson, the 13th overall pick this year, has looked so impressive in his early action he might earn more games. The Sabres have three more after tonight’s in Pittsburgh.
“Now, based on how he’s playing, there’s intrigue that he may get more,” Granato said this afternoon in KeyBank Center.
So far, Benson, 18, has recorded one goal and one assist. The Sabres have been playing him with established NHL talent. This morning, he skated at right wing with top center Tage Thompson and Lukas Rousek.
The Sabres, who will be playing their third game in three nights, must face a stacked Penguins lineup featuring superstars Sidney Crosby, Erik Karlsson and Evgeni Malkin.
“That’s the excitement of it,” Granato said. “You want to assess where your guys are, and it’s way easier to do that when you know they’re playing against a legitimate NHL lineup. You look at preseason hockey, and especially early preseason hockey, guys can have really good games. But the context of it is there was only eight players on the other team that were satisfying that veteran status.”
The rest of the line combinations and defense pairings from the morning skate are below.
– Brandon Biro, Casey Mittelstadt and JJ Peterka
– Zemgus Girgensons, Jiri Kulich and Isak Rosen
– Viktor Neuchev, Tyson Kozak and Filip Cederqvist
– Riley Stillman and Kale Clague
– Nikita Novikov and Zach Metsa
Defensemen Jacob Bryson and Ryan Johnson, both of whom played in Wednesday’s 5-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs, did not skate this morning.
Goalies Eric Comrie, Devin Cooley and Michael Houser are all on tonight’s game roster. Comrie will likely start.
Granato said Sabres center prospect Matt Savoie, who suffered an upper-body injury Sept. 18 in the Prospects Challenge finale, has been progressing and should join practice next week.
“He has to hit certain markers along the way,” he said.
The Sabres this morning sent defense prospects Mats Lindgren and Norwin Panocha back to their respective junior teams.