COLUMBUS – Eric Comrie was less than three minutes into his preseason debut for the Sabres when Carson Meyer sped toward him on a breakaway in Nationwide Arena on Wednesday.
Comrie shut the door on Meyer, one of a trio of high-danger saves he made early in Buffalo’s 4-1 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets. The goaltender finished with 27 saves on 31 shots faced.
“He looked calm and confident and you can only be that when you read shooters well,” Sabres coach Don Granato said. “That’s experience. He showed experience.”
Chase Priskie scored for the Sabres. Jack Quinn and Kale Clague had assists.
Here’s the breakdown of preseason game No. 3.
How it happened
Comrie made multiple high-danger stops to keep the Blue Jackets off the board early, including two chances from in close for forward Kent Johnson and the breakaway from Meyer.
Columbus finally broke through with 11:13 remaining in the period, when a tic-tac-toe passing sequence ended with Emil Bemstrom burying a shot at the back door. Kirill Marchenko fired a shot far-side from the left faceoff circle to make it 2-0 on the power play less than five minutes later.
The Sabres went 0-for-2 on the power play in the period.
The Sabres tilted the ice in the middle period, playing to a 9-5 edge in scoring chances according to Natural Stat Trick.
Priskie cashed in early, pinching down the right side and burying a one-time shot set up by Quinn.
“I think they just had to find a little bit of calm,” Granato said. “… It’s a new experience for a lot of guys, with a lot of guys with limited experience. I think it was overwhelming initially, but they found a way to work together to solve some of the pressure that was put at them. We saw lots of skill, actually, after that out of lots of young players.
The Sabres earned an early power play trailing 2-1 but were unable to capitalize despite chances for JJ Peterka and Anders Bjork.
Jakub Voracek got behind the Sabres defense to put the Blue Jackets ahead 3-1 with 12:02 remaining. Meyer – having been stopped twice prior on breakaways by Comrie – got in alone shorthanded and buried a backhand shot to finish the scoring.
What we learned
1. Comrie was asked about his objective for the first preseason game.
“It’s just get your feet underneath you again, get used to the pace, get used to everything,” he said. “I know for myself, every year it takes one or two games to get back into it. It was good to get back out there and a lot of fun to play the game.”
2. Priskie echoed Granato when asked about his first impressions of the Sabres goaltender.
“He’s calm and collected,” Priskie said. “You feel very confident when he’s in between the pipes. I know obviously this is his first game in a while, so I know he’s going to continue to build.”
3. Priskie, 26, was one of three defensemen who joined the Sabres on two-way deals on the opening day of free agency along with Clague and Jeremy Davies.
Priskie had 31 points (8+23) in 54 games last season with AHL Charlotte. His goal Wednesday provided an example of his offensive instincts, which he hopes to supplement with a strong defensive game during training camp.
“That’s kind of my bread and butter,” he said of the goal. “As much offensively that I want to bring to the table, I want to be just as good defensively and my worry is just to continue to show them that I can defend on this level consistently and be a producer for them.”
4. Shot attempts were 20-12 in favor of the Sabres when Priskie was on the ice at 5-on-5, according to Natural Stat Trick, the best shot attempt percentage on the team (62.5).
5. Priskie was drafted by Washington during the sixth round in 2016. He completed his college career at Quinnipiac, signed as a free agent with his hometown Florida Panthers and spent the past three seasons there before becoming an unrestricted free agent this summer.
A conversation with a current Sabres player helped convince him that Buffalo was the right opportunity.
“Really young group,” he said. “Really skilled and talented. I know Tage Thompson a bit so I chatted with him and obviously he’s done a phenomenal job making me feel like part of the group. So, kudos to everyone. I’m very excited about this year and about this group.”
The Sabres return to KeyBank Center to host the Pittsburgh Penguins at 1 p.m. on Saturday. Tickets are available here.
Fans can stream the game on Sabres.com or hear Dan Dunleavy and Rob Ray with the radio call on WGR 550.