The Buffalo Sabres need some massive help now that two of their better forwards will miss extended time, and someone needs to step up their game.
The Buffalo Sabres have enough talent to compensate for Tage Thompson missing time with a wrist injury, even if that talent has decided not to show up more often than not through 16 contests. Now that Tage won’t be in the lineup for at least a month, no-showing is no longer an option, and there are three particular forwards who must lead the charge every time they step onto the ice.
Two players broke out last season, although one has taken a step back through the first sixteen contests. The third player on this list is a seasoned veteran who has created plenty of opportunities already this season, but he must become the Sabres undisputed top scorer during Tage’s absence, and that means climbing yet another rung.
Buffalo Sabres players who must step up
1 – Casey Mittelstadt
Casey Mittelstadt is leading the team in points alongside Jeff Skinner, and he’s currently playing for a contract extension. Of his 13 points, 10 have come in the form of assists, but Mittelstadt must start shooting the puck more when driving it to the net to help compensate for the loss of Tage.
One of the flaws in Mittelstadt’s game, despite his vast improvement over the past calendar year, is that he still hesitates to shoot. His 21 shots on goal rank near the bottom of the pack among Buffalo Sabres forwards.
2 – Dylan Cozens
With just eight points in 14 games and a minus-2 rating, Dylan Cozens isn’t giving us the best encore performance following what was an excellent 68-point season last year. Cozens knows he needs to improve, and with Tage gone, that sense of urgency just skyrocketed and he no longer has a choice but to give the Sabres better results.
Cozens also needs to keep a cool head while on the ice. So far, he leads all Sabres forwards in penalty minutes with 25, and a player of his caliber needs to be in the game with the star player missing time.
3 – Jeff Skinner
Jeff Skinner leads the Buffalo Sabres with seven goals, but he needs to revert to that one-plus points-per-game pace he had going on last year. If we see Casey Mittelstadt bump up to the first line, it should help, as the former eighth-overall pick loves passing the puck.
But as mentioned, Mittelstadt also needs to start shooting more when he has an open look to try for rebounds. Skinner leads the team with 55 shots, so that’s not an issue, but he must crash the net more often when Mittelstadt or another center gets shots on goal and show a more tenacious side – even if he’s good at getting under an opponent’s skin.
(Statistics provided by Hockey-Reference)