Things are far from hunky-dory for the Buffalo Sabres right now.
Still within sniffing distance of the postseason as recently as a month ago, their current five-game losing streak has them 12 points out of the final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference. Over that stretch, they’ve been outscored 19-9 and watched their record slip below .500 (29-30-8).
While things have been tough for the squad since the trade deadline, there’s no denying they are doing everything in their power to try to win games for Duane (and only Duane). In fact, late in Thursday night’s 4-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen (inadvertently?) risked life and limb in an attempt to keep the puck in the offensive zone.
The boards remain undefeated all-time against hockey-playing humans.
Ristolainen literally did all he physically could to trap that biscuit with his body as the Penguins attempted to kill the final seconds of the contest. However, if you didn’t know what the 25-year-old was trying to do, you’d think he got levelled by Harry Potter wearing his invisibility cloak.
With the game taking place at the Sabres’ home arena — the KeyBank Center — Ristolainen is more than familiar with every square inch of that rink. The guy’s in his seventh season with the team so he knows his way around that particular playing surface. However, as he proved, sometimes you just give’r a little too hard — something the blueliner’s been know to do, be it on the ice or behind the wheel of his Mercedes-Benz G 500 SUV.
All joking aside, Ristolainen has been solid on the back end this season. One year after finishing last in the league in plus/minus, he’s plus-1 through 67 games on a Sabres squad that’s surrendered 21 more goals than it has scored. That’s quite the bounce-back performance considering he leads the team in ice time and regularly gets matched up against the league’s top offensive players.
The man is also a fantasy stud in Yahoo category leagues, ranking in the top 20 among defensemen. As of Friday morning, he’s scored six goals and collected 26 assists and currently ranks ninth in the NHL in hits this season with 198.
So, was Ristolainen trying to keep that puck in the zone on Thursday night or attempting to record the elusive “solo hit?” We may never know.
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