A day after announcing that the defenseman could be back in the lineup as soon as today, the Buffalo Sabres confirmed that Jacob Bryson will return to the lineup tonight when the team hosts the San Jose Sharks. Bryson will take the place of Lawrence Pilut on the blueline this evening. Bryson has missed the previous four Sabres games with a lower-body injury, last playing on November 23rd.
It’s no secret that Bryson has struggled so far this season, tallying six points in 20 games with his ice time decreasing steadily throughout, down overall from last season, and a -13 rating telling a good deal of the story. Still, Buffalo has had to deal with a bevy of injuries this season, primarily on the blueline, so getting an NHL defenseman back healthy is good news no matter who it is.
Even with Bryson’s struggles this season, the 25-year-old has shown the ability to be a capable NHL defenseman in the past and a closer look at his numbers does show positive signs that his game hasn’t completely gone away. For one, although his possession metrics aren’t superb, a 45.3 Corsi and 44.2 Fenwick, it is worth noting that 56.2% of his starts have been in the defensive zone.
Additionally, Bryson’s 10 takeaways compared to his three giveaways mark the first time in his career he’s taken the puck away more than he’s given it. Both of those are also on track to be career bests, at least on a per-game basis. The defenseman has also blocked 31 shots already in just 20 games, another number on track to be a career best.
It’s no secret there’s work to be done for Bryson, but coming back after a short time away could help to act as a reset, even if just on a mental basis, for a player Buffalo might be able to use as a part of it’s future plans on what is fast becoming an elite blueline.