Brandon Biro got to know Lukas Rousek well at the end of last season and into the playoffs with the Rochester Americans. The two forwards had both missed time with injuries before returning in the spring and joining together as linemates.
So as Rousek fended off a defender along the offensive-zone boards in KeyBank Center on Tuesday, Biro knew to find a way to get open.
“I know he’s not a big shooter, so every time he gets it, I try to get to open space because he’s going to find the lane, he’s looking for a pass,” Biro said.
“It’s really, really easy to play with him. He’s great on the forecheck and he beats guys to areas so you can lay it to him and he’s going to find you back. I love playing with Rousek. He’s a special player.”
Biro found space towards the net, received the feed from Rousek and buried the first of his two goals in the Sabres’ 2-1 preseason win over the Philadelphia Flyers.
Craig Anderson started for the Sabers and stopped seven of eight shots. Malcom Subban played the second half and stopped each of the 12 shots he faced.
In a game featuring several Sabers veterans, a trio of young players looking to make the jump after productive seasons in Rochester – Biro, Rousek, and Linus Weissbach – found ways to make impacts. Their contributions helped Buffalo improve to 2-0-0 on the preseason.
Here’s the breakdown of preseason game no. 2.
How it happened
The Sabers rolled multiple shifts in the Flyers zone to begin the game, a stretch that ultimately ended with Biro putting them on the board at the 8:24 mark. Rousek fended off a defender along the boards and set up Biro’s shot from the low left faceoff circle.
Flyers forward Travis Konecny led an odd-man rush and scored from in tight to tie the game with 5:18 left in the period.
The line of Alex TuchBiro, and Rousek cycled in the Flyers zone until Biro fired a shot from the right circle to put the Sabers ahead, 2-1.
Biro was credited with the goal, although Tuch – who was in front of the Philadelphia net – may have gotten his stick on the puck.
“It was a good forecheck, kind of all of us on that line,” Biro said. “I just tried to get it to the net and he got a good stick on it.”
The Sabers buckled down to protect their one-goal lead, which required a 5-on-3 penalty kill that lasted 1:29 early in the period.
Subban stopped seven shots to keep the Flyers off the board, including two on the aforementioned penalty kill. The Sabers finished the game with 14 blocked shots, including three from a piece Rasmus Dahlin and Ilya Lyubushkin. In all, ten different players were credited with a block.
“That’s what stood out to me, which is the fight to win a game, which is good,” Sabers coach Don Granato said.
Video: POSTGAME: Granato
What we learned
1. Biro had played 15 games with the Americans in 2020-21, although that season was dramatically shortened by the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year was the first full pro season for the forward, who signed with the Sabers as an undrafted free agent in 2020 after four years at Penn State.
Biro caught fire early, tallying 36 points (9+27) in 39 games to begin the season. His production earned him a look with the Sabers in Montreal in February, but he was injured in his very next game with Rochester. He did not return until mid-April.
Still, the season provided Biro with experience that is proving valuable in his third camp.
“I think it was just getting used to the speed and kind of getting the flow,” he said. “I dealt with some injuries a little bit the last two years, so kind of once I got my footing under me and played a good stretch of games, kind of got a bit more used to it and felt more confident. I was able to kind of play my game and do what I’ve always done.”
In Granato’s words, that includes playing with persistence and intelligence.
“He works well with people around him,” Granato said. “He has really, really good vision on the ice. And a couple of goals were very nice goals, obviously, nice shots.”
2. Biro returned to the Americans on April 13. Rousek followed a few weeks later, making his AHL debut on May 4 after missing most of his rookie season with a knee injury.
He still managed to make a splash, tallying six points (2+4) in 10 games during Rochester’s playoff run. The 23-year-old has continued to impress early in camp, having strung together a productive three games in the Prospects Challenge followed by his assist on Tuesday.
“He’s very intelligent as a player with many respects, but situational awareness, he’s efficient and effective,” Granato said. “If he needs to block a shot, he reads it. If you need a good stick, good angle, he reads it if a guy’s open after he steals the puck.
“So, he’s got a knack and a feel for the game combined with a competitiveness that just keeps him in it. And he makes the job easier for other guys, for linemates. A lot of detail in his game.”
3. Biro joined the Sabers as an undrafted free agent. Rousek was a sixth-round pick in 2019. The third player mentioned up top, Weissbach, was drafted during the seventh round in 2017.
Weissbach played four years at the University of Wisconsin before joining Rochester last season. He tied for sixth on the team with 37 points.
The 24-year-old made it a point to stand out as a veteran during the Prospects Challenge, and his performance has carried into the main camp. He was rewarded with a role on the top line alongside Jeff Skinner and Tage Thompson against the Flyers.
“Weissbach looked very comfortable with Thompson and Skinner and created a lot, showed skill, showed vision, and there was some chemistry there between the three of them,” Granato said. “So that was a real bonus, a plus for Linus. He played a really solid game.”
4. The Sabers went undefeated in three games at the Prospects Challenge and have now won both preseason games despite icing two very different lineups.
One constant through each of those games: 19-year-old forward Matt Savoiethe ninth-overall pick in this summer’s draft.
“I’m going to throw Matty Savoie under the bus, he said he was 5-0 in a Sabers uniform,” Tuch said. “I think he’s got the record right now. I’m kind of jealous.”
Video: POSTGAME: Tuch
5. Kidding aside, Tuch echoed Granato in admiring the sacrifice it took to seal the win.
“I mean, it’s an exhibition game and guys are going, laying their bodies on the line,” Tuch said. “They’re making plays, they’re giving the extra effort and that’s really good to see. It’s not guys just going out there for a skate and going, ‘It’s preseason, whatever.’ Guys want to win out there.”
The Sabers visit the Columbus Blue Jackets for preseason game no. 3 on Wednesday. Fans can stream the game live on Sabres.com beginning at 7 pm Dan Dunleavy and Rob Ray will have the radio call on WGR 550.