The Buffalo Sabres may only be five games into the season, but they are already in a must-win situation with only one point to show for their efforts. Buffalo is tied with Arizona for the worst record in the league at 0-4-1 and for the worst goal differential at -11. It’s also been a top-heavy effort, with 20 of the 28 player points so far coming from just three players: Jack Eichel, Evander Kane, and Jason Pominville. It’s clear that Buffalo needs balance and they need talent if they are to go anywhere in 2017-18.
Looking for that spark, the Sabres have announced this morning that they have recalled young forward Justin Bailey from the AHL’s Rochester Americans. The 22-year-old was a 2013 second-round pick and at 6’4″, 214-lbs., has grown into a physical, power forward. In 40 NHL games over the past two seasons, Bailey has only recorded four points, but down in the minors he has continued to be a proven goal-scorer just as he was in the OHL. With little reason to not play any promising, young players, it appears now could finally be the time for Bailey to stick in Buffalo. The team is in dire need of energy and ability, both of which Bailey has in spades. While Kane and, to some extent, Zemgus Girgensons both play a power forward game, the Sabres lost a ton of physicality in the off-season departures of Marcus Foligno and William Carrier. The top-nine needs another big body who can crash the net and make things happen. If Bailey is ready to step up at the highest level, he is well-suited to fill that role and could develop into a key piece of the Sabres’ 2017-18 campaign.
The down side to Bailey’s promotion is that it is due to the opening of a roster spot. The Sabres have additionally placed defenseman Zach Bogosian on the injured reserve. Bogosian has yet to play this season due to an undisclosed injury suffered in the preseason and doesn’t appear to be returning any time soon. A very capable defenseman who provides a boost to any lineup, Bogosian unfortunately is simply not in the lineup enough. The 26-year-old blue liner has not played more than 65 games in a season since he was a teenager with the Atlanta Thrashers. In 2016-17, he suited up for just 56 games and posted a career-low 11 points. Bailey might be a big help for the Sabres, but they also need a healthy, effective Bogosian if they want to maximize their production this season.