Reinhart trying to jump start his game

November 06, 2018 - 6:52 pm

The Buffalo Sabres returned to the ice for practice on Tuesday at HarborCenter after a 3-1 loss at the hands of the New York Rangers on Sunday.

The Sabres continued their aggressive attack of the opponent on Sunday night, out-shooting the Rangers 40-22, but ran into Henrik Lundqvist, who was on his game with 39 saves. However, the Sabres have been able to out-shoot their opponents 139-83 through the first three games of November.

It was a bad opening stretch of the second period that cost the Sabres as they gave up two goals in the opening minute of play and 19-seconds apart. Head coach Phil Housley was happy that his team continued to be aggressive and play with a shot mentality, but knows his team can play much better.

"I think we still need to have that attack mindset and shot mentality, but there are opportunities where we're at the net but we're not standing directly over the top of the goalie. That's one area that we can do a better job, and we're fighting to get there, which is a good sign," Housley said following practice on Tuesday. "We had some second looks and some second opportunities, but if we continue to play like that, they're going to fall. We have to keep firing the puck and hopefully we can cash in on some rebounds.

"The guys have a very good focus. I think the adversity part, that goes back to even before camp when we talked about facing adverse situations. Obviously those two or three shift in the second period against New York, it was a great example of just taking your guard off just for an instance, especially in a tight game. We have to continue to work on that, but I like the way we've responded when we've faced adversity."

"I think there were a couple of breakdowns that cost us, but opposing goaltenders are going to steal some games sometimes," Sabres forward Sam Reinhart said following practice. "Obviously Lundqvist played a heck of a game and that's going to happen, but I really like that we did stick with it and we didn't change anything heading into the third period. Unfortunately, we couldn't get the tying [goal] late."

On Tuesday, Housley made a very slight adjustment to the lines, swapping Reinhart and Kyle Okposo on the second and third line right wing spot. 

Reinhart is off to a slow start to his 2018-19 season, scoring just one goal and seven assists in the first 15 games of the season. It hasn't been all that bad for Reinhart, compared to his start to last season with just two goals and three assists in the first 15 games. The 23-year-old is around the net and doing just as he has done to score goals throughout his four-year career with the Sabres. He's hoping that he can get his game back going while working on a line with Evan Rodrigues and Vladimir Sobotka.

"It's frustrating for sure when the puck is not going in the net," Reinhart said. "There's certain games I'm really trying to build off. Hopefully now that I'm back with [Rodrigues], we played a lot together and we've have had some success together in the past. I'm excited about that opportunity, and I know he is as well. And obviously [Sobotka], playing a little bit with him at the start, I know what he brings, he's so strong on the puck. It should be exciting.

"It's such a fine line. We could be standing here and talking about something completely different with the chances that have been there. It's so close in my mind. When things are going well, the puck seems to find my stick and bounce the right way. For whatever reason, it hasn't been going that way. All I can do is stick with it and stay positive through it. It obviously helps when our team is playing more consistent and having fun on a daily basis."

With the Sabres having a solid first and fourth line, the focus has now shifted towards finding some chemistry with the middle two lines. Reinhart is back with Rodrigues and Sobotka after some time spent with Conor Sheary and Casey Mittelstadt. The young winger is not new to the changing of lines and constant mix-matching, and knows that with the team playing well they can put something together to change the tide.

"I'm kind of used to it with me being in my fourth year [in the league]. I don't see that's going to change any time soon," Reinhart said. "On a day like today, I'm looking for a fresh mindset, and a line like this excites me and the possibilities are there. Hopefully we can run with this."

The Sabres are currently sitting in the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, sitting two points behind the Montreal Canadiens, Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs, and five points behind the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Atlantic Division. For the first time in a while, the Sabres have remained in a competitive spot in the East through the first 15 games of the season, which has provided the guys a little burst of energy and light-heartedness in the locker room.

At practice on Tuesday, the team was enjoying their practice time and having some fun despite Housley pushing the pace and tempo. Especially after having Monday off from practice, Reinhart was feeling good and ready to get back to work.

"After a day off, it's always nice to come in and I know we've been going strong for a while. It's nice to kind of refresh the mind and come in and be with each other again. We took advantage of that again."

"I think coming off a day off, sometimes you're a bit sleepy and not into it right away," echoed Sheary. "I think Phil [Housley] did a good job of making sure we were ready and skating out there. I think it was a good work day for us, and a good day for us moving forward."

Sheary has picked his game back up as of late after a string of eight games without a goal. In the last two games against the Ottawa Senators and Rangers, Sheary has two goals and an assist, and has upped his season total to eight points (5+3) in 15 games.

The 26-year-old stayed on the left wing with Casey Mittelstadt on Tuesday, but is back skating with Okposo on the opposite wing. Sheary's mindset has been in line with Reinhart's as to his linemates, especially with the team clicking well to start the season.

"Casey is good with the puck, he's got really good vision. As a winger, you like playing with a centerman like that who can find you all over the ice. And whether it's [Reinhart] or [Okposo], those are two hardworking guys who like to go to the net and like get their nose dirty. A lot of times, they will come up with some turnovers that lead to offense. All three of those guys are fun to play with. Glad I have that opportunity."

"As a whole, I think our team is playing with some good confidence right now. After that Ottawa game, we started to get scoring from not just our top line but other guys too. Moving forward, that will grow our confidence as a team."

The Sabres are traveling to Montreal for their second matchup with the season against the Canadiens on Thursday night. Earlier this season, the Sabres came back from a 3-2 deficit in the third period and up-ended the Canadiens with a late power play goal from Okposo with 1:01 left to play. Sheary knows that Montreal will be ready to respond to their loss earlier this season, especially in front of the home crowd at the Bell Centre.

"They're obviously good in their own building. It's a tough place to play. Coming off us beating them the last time, they're going to come out hard. This being a divisional game, those are an important two points. With this break here, we want to make sure we get our rest, recover and be ready to go for Thursday."

Here is how the lines looked on Tuesday:









Tage Thompson was working in on the fourth line.

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