The Buffalo Sabres enjoyed a strong effort from the oft-injured blueliner, who showed no fear despite a season of injuries.
When we fans talk about what it will take for the Buffalo Sabres to establish themselves as a bona fide Stanley Cup contender, we ultimately wind up talking about skill. We talk about speed. We talk about goaltending. And we talk about having a warrior mentality, especially when it comes to Ryan O’Reilly.
After watching Dmitry Kulikov sacrifice his body time and time again Tuesday night in Buffalo’s 5-4 OT victory against the Nashville Predators, maybe it’s time we start talking about fearlessness, as well.
Having already missed 26 games due to back injury this season, Kulikov took the ice in Nashville, logged 24:11 minutes of ice time (third-most on the team), and blocked an impressive 7 shots. (In case you are curious, the rest of the players on the Sabres roster COMBINED to block 7 more shots.) Just for good measure, Kulikov finished the evening with 4 hits, only one behind team hitman Marcus Foligno, meaning Kulikov played like a man who didn’t care if he re-injured himself.
Instead, he played like a man who wanted to win a damn hockey game.
When GM Tim Murray traded Mark Pysyk to Florida for Kulikov, many fans were left scratching their heads. The fact that Kulikov has spent most of this season injured has not endeared him to the fanbase, either, although that clearly is not his fault. When he’s healthy, though, Kulikov gets big minutes from coach Dan Bylsma, so the coaching staff feels better with him on the ice.
If he can stay healthy, throw his body around and continue to block shots like he did against the Predators, Buffalo Sabres fans might feel better with Dmitry Kulikov on the ice, too!