As Sabres shuffle the deck, Jimmy Vesey gets big chance to finally notch first goal

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As Sabres shuffle the deck, Jimmy Vesey gets big chance to finally notch first goal

Post by admin » Thu Nov 21, 2019 8:14 am

Jimmy Vesey totaled 50 goals over the last three years with the New York Rangers, including 43 at even strength. Heading into a contract year, it was a reasonable leap of faith for the Buffalo Sabres to pencil in Vesey for his normal 16-17 goals, and maybe that first season over 20.

Hasn't remotely happened. Vesey has played 18 games and has a big donut in the goal column. Zilch. Zip. Nada. Zippo.

So when Sabres coach Ralph Krueger reworked his lines in practice Wednesday, where was Vesey? At left wing on the top line along with Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart. Krueger might be going mad scientist here, playing a hunch that the Boston native's return home with fellow Bostonian Eichel to play the Bruins on Thursday night in TD Garden could spark him out of his doldrums.

"More than anything, we have a feeling that his work has been strong and a goal will explode him into a stronger secondary scoring position," Krueger said of Vesey. "There is some Boston energy in the group right now permutating through the whole team."

(Yes, Krueger said "permutating").

"It's a good feeling," Vesey said. "I said a little bit in training camp that getting put up there gives you a shot in the arm, a little bit of a boost. I'm excited, especially going home, to try to have a good game."

Vesey has been giving the Sabres some activity up front in recent games. He hit a post Sunday in Chicago and had a couple near-misses Tuesday against Minnesota. And there's no denying he's been good on the penalty kill, even as the Sabres have struggled as a unit.

"It seems like I've hit the goalie in the knob of the stick a bunch of times," Vesey said. "It's out of my control. What's in the past is in the past and we've still got a good chunk of the season left so every day I come to the rink I'm looking to get better and contribute to the team."

Vesey has only 24 shots on goal for the season but has been driving play better of late. He had four shots in the second game in Sweden against Tampa Bay and was working hard down low in Saturday's win over Ottawa.

And Vesey is far from downcast about his situation.

"It's a good lesson. Not only in hockey but in life," he said. "Things aren't going your way, what are you going to do about it? Are you going to quit or are you pick yourself back up, show up the next day and get better? That's my mindset now.

"It's an 82-game season and you're gonna have ups and downs. Unfortunately for me it's been to start the season with a new team. I don't think anyone, myself included, thought this is the way we would have drawn it up. I'm going to get out of this. I've been able to score and contribute at every level and I've done it at this level so it's just a matter of time right now."

For now at least, Vesey is replacing Victor Olofsson on the Eichel line. Olofsson is moving down to play with Rasmus Asplund and Casey Mittelstadt. Asplund was Olofsson's exclusive center last year in Rochester and Mittelstadt is getting a chance to temporarily lessen his load by moving from center to wing.

"We know each other really good and played a full season together last year so have good chemistry," Olofsson said of Asplund. "So it's going to be a lot of fun to play with him. It obviously helps on the ice to know where we have each other and our relationship became very strong last year. We're both very excited and looking forward to having a lot of fun."

Krueger continues to espouse balance on his lines, which is the reason he has yet to pair Jeff Skinner with Eichel, a duo that was together much of the time last year as Skinner scored 40 goals.

"We just thought that Victor brought us a strong two-way game and we don't want to burden 'Skins' with too much of that," Krueger said. "He's doing a really good job without the puck but needs to be able to create when he has opportunity.

"They have seen the best ice time together, and that's on the power play. There's no space where you play more together than on power play and so I disagree he's not playing with Eichel. He's playing with Eichel and has the privilege predominantly to play there on the PP. The 5-on-5 game is a tight one in the National Hockey League and you need a balanced lineup to sustain success is what I'm saying to that."

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