BUFFALO – Among the 38 players the Sabres have used through five preseason games, very few have stood out.
Of course, center Jack Eichel has performed strongly, compiling one goal and four points in three appearances. Meanwhile, veteran winger Jason Pominville scored twice in his debut.
But those Sabres are expected to make notable contributions. What about the bubble players, the AHL guy looking to crack the big club out of training camp?
Up front, winger Seth Griffith, 24, has been perhaps the Sabres’ biggest surprise, making a strong push to remain on the roster for Thursday’s season opener.
After compiling a goal and two points in the first three preseason games, Griffith will play in tonight’s finale against the New York Islanders inside KeyBank Center.
Twelve forward spots are likely set, leaving just one or two open. Griffith, a lethal AHL scorer who has struggled to produce in the NHL, could secure his place with another strong outing tonight. Eighteen forwards are left in camp.
“Coming into a new camp, new system, new coaches, kind of a fresh start for me,” Griffith said this morning. “I was really looking forward to it. I played three games right off the bat. It felt good the first game, I just kind of kept it going.”
Griffith not only scored in his preseason debut Sept. 18, he did it 11:50 into the game, generating early confidence.
“You get a goal or you make a good play your first shift or something like that, it just so happens your legs get underneath you after that,” he said. “I felt pretty good after that.”
Why has Griffith thrived this camp?
“The system really suits my game,” he said. “It’s continuously moving all the time. As a smaller guy, I need to use my speed out there, I need to get away from the big, strong D-man in the corners, right? It’s kind of like a continuous cycle game, and then you just try to make your way to the net off that.”
Sabres coach Phil Housley said Griffith must “play with speed.”
“He can make plays when he has time and space,” he said. “The big thing for me is him using that speed to provide that area of his game where he get his head up and surveys the ice a little bit. I really like the way he gets on the forecheck, using his speed that way.”
Griffith signed a one-year, one-way contract worth $650,000 on July 1. He has six goals and 16 points in 58 NHL games.
Here are the rest of tonight’s likely forward lines and defense pairs from left to right:
– Evander Kane, Eichel and Pominville
– Zemgus Girgensons, Ryan O’Reilly and Kyle Okposo
– Johan Larsson, Jacob Josefson and Jordan Nolan
– Victor Antipin and Rasmus Ristolainen
– Nathan Beaulieu and Zach Bogosian
– Josh Gorges and Justin Falk
Goalie Robin Lehner will start and be backed up by Chad Johnson.
In other news, Sabres defenseman Marco Scandella, who has been resting his hip at times during camp and sitting out games, will be scratched tonight. Scandella, an offseason acquisition from the Minnesota Wild, underwent hip surgery in May.
Since Scandella will miss all six preseason games, his Sabres debut will likely come in Thursday’s opener.
While Scandella could’ve played tonight, Housley wanted to be cautious.
“He’s made great strides and great improvement with it every day,” Housley said. “We don’t want to put him into action too early where he has a setback.”