Morning Skate | Sabres look to extend point streak vs. Devils

Sabres interim coach Don Granato acknowledged that lineup decisions will be less cut-and-dried than usual this week as the April 12 trade deadline approaches.

The clearest example is forward Taylor Hall, a pending unrestricted free agent who will sit Tuesday for the second straight game. But asked whether salary cap considerations affect potential recalls in his place, Granato said there are multiple factors at play affecting the roster. 

“I’m not in the position to be discussing salary cap, obviously, as a coach,” Granato said. “… But yes, the roster decisions are a bit more complicated because of the week it is.” 

Video: PREGAME: Granato

The Sabres, as such, expect to stick with the same lineup when they conclude their season series with the New Jersey Devils at KeyBank Center on Thursday night. The team dressed 11 forwards and seven defensemen in a 5-3 victory in New Jersey on Tuesday. 

That lineup, heavy with young players stepping into impact roles, has guided the Sabres to a five-game point streak (3-0-2). Casey Mittelstadt has points in four straight games, with three goals and two assists in that span. Rasmus Dahlin has three points in the past two contests. 

The list goes on. Tage Thompson has three points in the past five games, not counting the shootout winner he scored against New York on Saturday. Rasmus Asplund joined a line with Mittelstadt and Thompson on Tuesday and scored his fourth goal in just 10 games this season.

“This is an exciting position to be in because all of these guys have such a significant high ceiling and capacity, and that’s exciting,” Granato said. “It’s exciting to them to come to the rink, and they love the game of hockey so create an environment where they can love the game of hockey and challenge them to be better, because who doesn’t like becoming better? 

“That works. That works everywhere, anywhere in life and we have to make sure that’s at the forefront here.”

 

Scouting the Devils

New Jersey made a pre-deadline splash Wednesday, sending two of its longtime veterans in Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac to the New York Islanders. Jesper Boqvist will move to center in place of Zajac. 

The Sabres are 4-2-1 against the Devils this season and can take the season series with a win. 

“At this part of the year and playing in a division where there are only seven other opponents, there’s enough familiarity going into each game now that you don’t really need to make the game much about the opponent you’re playing or any discrepancies in their roster,” Granato said. 

“For us, we have to have the focus on where we can make our improvements, how we can become a better team. I’ve mentioned that so many times, individually and collectively. Our focus going into these games will remain on that.”

 

Tune in

Coverage on MSG begins at 6:30 p.m. The puck drops at 7.

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