Pysyk’s Return Could Mean D-line Shuffle

Mark Pysyk, after missing 22 games from a bruised/broken bone in his foot, is set to return to the line-up this Friday against Chicago which means Buffalo will have 8 defensemen—which (and I’m not a mathematician) is 2 more than we need. If we have one thing on the Sabres team, it’s a mostly solid defense. So the question remains, who stays and who goes? Below is my list of who I believe will either sit or play in the upcoming few weeks.

With Rasmus Ristolinen recently ranked in the top 10 of defensemen in the categories of goals (T-10th), assists (T-7th), points (T-8th), shots (9th) and multi-point games (T-7th).  He’s been playing well even though it’s only his 2nd season and is performing consistently from game to game, even recording his first hat trick as a Sabre.        Verdict: On the Ice 

Josh Gorges, Ristolinen’s line-mate from the Panthers game, is the Sabres leading resident of the penalty box with 46 minutes in time out.  He currently has 6 points, the last one recorded December 17th against Anaheim. He does bring some grit to the Sabres defense, however his consistency to underperform doesn’t prove much.        Verdict: Scratched

Jake McCabe is now in his rookie career as a Sabre since he only came from Rochester twice last season, and he’s been making strides.  Jake has 7 points on the season so far, 12 hits, and has most recently recorded a 3 game point streak (12/17-12/26).               Verdict: On the Ice

Zach Bogosian started his season with the Sabres in November after a lower-body injury, but came back in a big way since then, tallying 5 points including his first goal most recently against Detroit.  Currently on the same line as McCabe, Bogosian is set to continuously contribute for the Sabres.        Verdict: On the Ice

Cody Franson, the power Sabre that was picked up from Toronto, is right behind Ristolinen with 13 points.  Our biggest defenseman has been scattering his point pickups throughout the season so far and is believed to keep that status quo.       Verdict: On the Ice

Mike Weber. Ah, Mike. As much as I’d hate to admit it (spoiler alert) I think you’re coming back onto the ice. With 3 points in 22 games you’re a Sabres veteran who can also take a hit. You may take a few games as a healthy scratch even when Pysyk returns, but Bylsma has faith in you as a leader on the ice for the younger guys and for that you are not scratched.

Carlo Colaiacovo returned yesterday against the Panthers from being a healthy scratch, changing places with Mike Weber.  Thus far the 32 year old has 4 points, all assists-half of them being in early December. His lack of leadership on defense leads me to think that even if he stays after Pysyk’s return it won’t be for long.       Verdict: Scratched

Mark Pysyk. Last but not least our returning youngster in his 2nd season only has one point.  He is currently in Rochester for conditioning and is set to play a few games, as well as Lehner, as a Rochester American before returning to Buffalo. The 23 year old D-man will most likely see some Sabre action this weekend or early next week, which is exactly what Bylsma is anticipating. His quick feet and reliable skating ability, brings him forward for now.          Verdict: On the Ice

These predictions are all what I imagine will happen, but as we’ve seen before our head coach likes to change it up like a bag of trail mix when it comes to lines.  With that being said it will be interesting to see who steps up when trying to vie for a spot.