BUFFALO – Sabres center Ryan O’Reilly averages more ice time than any NHL forward – 21 minutes, 50 seconds a game – but the workhorse skated a season-low 17:08 in Tuesday’s 6-3 win against Los Angeles.
Defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen, meanwhile, averages a team-high 26:39 a game, yet only skated 22:04 on Tuesday, his second-lowest total this season.
What happened? A few things.
For starters, the Sabres didn’t kill any penalties and has only one power play, so special teams time was limited. That allowed the Sabres to roll four lines and three defense pairs.
Secondly, with a few players healthy again, coach Dan Bylsma can distribute ice time more evenly.
“It was a four-line game against the Kings, and that contributed to it a little bit,” Bylsma said of the reduced ice times. “The lack of special teams was a big part of that, just the one power play in the game for our team, no penalty kills, we had two four-on-four situations. Really, the even-strength times weren’t far off of what they normally are.”
He added: “That was reflective of how it could look going forward for our team if you scratch the special teams from our game.”
Bylsma said before the season he wanted O’Reilly and Ristolainen to play a little less.
O’Reilly, who said he “had a bit more gas” late Tuesday, had played 20 minutes in all but one game this season.
“I’d play every minute if I could,” he said. “I always feel I should be on the ice. That’s the way every guy should feel on the team. Yeah, the minutes were down a little bit last game, but it was a great result. If that’s what it takes to win, let’s do it every time we can.”