1. Mixed Start – Buffalo Sabres
To say it has been a mixed start to Training Camp for the Buffalo Sabres would be a severe understatement.
There was tangible excitement once Camp opened on New Year’s Eve given that Taylor Hall had joined his new teammates after signing a one-year, $8 million ticket in Free Agency, as did veteran center Eric Staal who was acquired in an offseason trade from the Minnesota Wild.
However, face of the franchise Jack Eichel has missed all of Camp so far with an upper-body injury, as has goaltender Linus Ullmark who is finishing up his quarantine period. And, to make matters worse, top-line winger Victor Olofsson took a blow to his arm during practice on Day Two of Camp.
But, those minor setbacks aside, there were positives to take with Hall looking sharp on the ice in a Sabres jersey, while it looks like Head Coach Ralph Kruger will roll with a second-line of Jeff Skinner – Eric Staal – Sam Reinhart, a trio that looked incredibly sharp during scrimmages.
That bodes well for the Sabres given that, if Skinner can enjoy a resurgence as we mapped out here and that second-line can step up offensively, then it would take a lot of the pressure off Eichel and Hall.
Staal should be a perfect fit for the Sabres on and off the ice given his experience and leadership, while Buffalo fans will no doubt be itching to see Eichel and Hall together for the first time.
That should happen in the coming days but, for now, this should be an exciting time for the Buffalo Sabres who will have their best chance yet of securing a return to the postseason for the first time since 2010-11 in what will be a shortened 56-game schedule.
Boasting two top lines, added depth down the middle and a loaded blueline unit with Rasmus Dahlin set for a true breakout year, the Sabres will have to navigate a tough and stacked East Division but they should have the pieces to cause some damage.
And, despite the injuries, it has been a positive start to Training Camp for the Buffalo Sabres who need to put down some solid foundations to ensure that they hit the ground running in 2020-21 with every game crucial in a congested schedule.