Buffalo Sabres defenseman Jamie McBain made his return to the lineup after four games as a healthy scratch. With Alexander Sulzer out with an unspecified injury, McBain played opposite Christian Ehrhoff and provided plenty of offensive opportunities for the Sabres in their 3-1 loss to the New York Rangers on Thursday.
After seeing Sulzer and Brayden McNabb rotated into the defensive lineup for a sizable stretch, McBain was enthused to return to the ice.
“Obviously you want to get back in the lineup and earn your spot back,” McBain said. “Any time your name’s called, you’re excited to get back in there.”
McBain’s 23:50 of ice time was second on the Sabres in this game, trailing only his defensive partner Ehrhoff, and he also was out there on both of Buffalo’s power plays. While he was held off the scoresheet in this game, McBain generated three shots on goal and had a couple of solid scoring chances in the second period as the Sabres trailed by just one.
“That’s my game. That’s kind of the style that I want to play and I have to play. We have to get pucks up to the forwards, be the fourth man in the attack, and get shots through to the net, and also getting myself some opportunities to score.”
McBain was also trusted with significant ice time in the third period as Buffalo tried to get back in the game, as he led all Sabres defenseman in the final period with 8:24 of ice time. After a few periods of playing together, McBain and Ehrhoff really started developing some chemistry in both ends of the ice.
“[Christian’s] an elite hockey player so it was a privilege to play with him. We haven’t played together this year, so maybe it took a period just to get those tendencies down a little bit. I feel like overall it was a fun game to play with him,” McBain said.
After practice on Friday, interim coach Nolan said he was impressed with how McBain performed.
“I really liked his game,” Nolan said. “When I talked to him about coming into the lineup, he asked me why he was out. There was no specific reason why. I was trying to find out who’s who on this team and he was just one of those guys that had the least amount of problems at the beginning. We had to fix the other guys. He played very well for us.”
Sabres captain Steve Ott has been an extremely physical presence for the Sabres from the moment he joined the team, and this season has been no different. With three hits in tonight’s game, Ott’s season total for hits rose to 101, good for third in the league. Ott trails only Los Angeles’ Dustin Brown (106) and the Islanders’ Matt Martin (137) in total hits.
The Rangers held a 1-0 advantage after two periods of play, and that played to the Rangers’ favor in this game. New York advanced to 11-1-0 when leading after two periods. Buffalo has yet to gain a point in a game that they trailed after two, falling to 0-18-0 in such games.
New York also scored the first goal of the game, meaning the Sabres have given up the first goal in 24 of 29 games this season. In those games, the Sabres have a 6-17-1 record. The struggles have been an overarching theme for the Sabres all throughout the season.
“We’ve got to search for the answers,” Nolan said. “No one’s going to ride in here and fix it for us. We have to fix it ourselves, and we have to look in the mirror at what we can do to correct this thing and try and make it better.”
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