There was a theme to tonight's 3-0 loss to the Buffalo Sabres, and it was started with penalty trouble in the second period.
The Blue Jackets, playing their seventh of eight exhibition games and the first of a back-to-back set to close out the preseason, gave a youthful and speedy Buffalo Sabres team far too many opportunities to create offense, and especially so on the power play. Mike McKenna, who started the game between the pipes for the Blue Jackets, was a busy guy in his segment of the game, but Columbus held strong in a scoreless first period with a 9-8 shot advantage for the visiting side.
With a young lineup of their own (one filled with guys eager to prove themselves to the coaching staff and management), the Blue Jackets came out with a physical start and finished their checks all over the ice. They generated some scoring chances, made the Sabres defense work in its own zone, but were unable to beat Jhonas Enroth - who was very sharp for Buffalo.
For the first time in the preseason, the Blue Jackets were unable to score a goal and it wasn't for a lack of chances; they certainly had plenty of looks - including a 31-second two-man advantage in the second period - but could not capitalize. Buffalo took a lot of momentum from its penalty kill and took advantage of the tilted ice in the third period, where it tallied twice to put the game out of reach.
On the bright side, the Blue Jackets got quality goaltending from both McKenna and Jeremy Smith, who entered the game in the second period, essentially splitting time with McKenna. Those two guys are under a little more pressure now with Curtis McElhinney out of the lineup (lower body), potentially leaving the opening night backup goalie spot open for one of them.
With one preseason game remaining - Thursday night on home ice against Carolina - the Blue Jackets are expected to ice a loaded lineup for their final tune-up. Sergei Bobrovsky is slated to make the start between the pipes, and several regulars will be in the lineup for Columbus.
1. JHONAS ENROTH (BUF)
The Sabres netminder and supposed heir apparent to Ryan Miller was very good tonight, stopping all 26 pucks directed his way and nullifying every sniff of offense the Blue Jackets mustered. Included in his body of work were several saves on odd-man rushes and a solid effort on the Jackets' two-man advantage - the turning point of the game.
2. VILLE LEINO (BUF)
One of a few Sabres in search of a bounce-back year, Leino was noticeable tonight and tallied the first goal of the game, which eventually stood as the game-winner. He skated on the Sabres' second line and saw time on the power play, as well.
3. THOMAS VANEK (BUF)
The Sabres are counting on a big season from their star forward, who's entering the final year of a seven-year contract and carries an uncertain future along with it. Buffalo needs this guy producing to have a chance at returning to the postseason, and though he didn't score in this game, he was all over the ice and had a handful of chances.
VS. CAROLINA HURRICANES
THURSDAY, 7 P.M.
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