Game Preview | Sabres hopeful for Jonsson-Fjallby to debut in Pittsburgh


Axel Jonsson-Fjallby spent Monday securing an apartment with his girlfriend in Hershey, Pennsylvania. The couple was readying to move in their furniture when he learned he had to change plans.

Jonsson-Fjallby had been claimed off waivers by the Sabres. He was on the ice in Buffalo by Tuesday morning, readying for a potential preseason game in Pittsburgh. 

"I'm really happy to be here," he said.

Sabres coach Don Granato said he hopes to have Jonsson-Fjallby in the lineup against the Penguins, though he added that there was clerical work left to be done beforehand. 

Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m. Fans in the Buffalo broadcast market can watch the Pittsburgh feed live on MSG.

Here are five things to know.

1. The newcomer

Jonsson-Fjallby was drafted by the Capitals during the fifth round in 2016. He played a combined 109 games with their AHL affiliate in Hershey over the past three seasons but has yet to play in the NHL.

He expressed excitement about a new opportunity with the Sabres. 

"Just the fact that they claimed me shows that they believe in me," he said. "And that's just a really good feeling for me and I'm just going to do my best."

Video: JONSSON-FJALLBY

The left-shot winger described himself as a player who simply tries to add speed to the game. He comes to Buffalo with some familiarity, having played at the World Junior Championship here for Sweden alongside Rasmus Dahlin in 2018. 

2. The roster

If he plays, Jonsson-Fjallby would join a youth-laden lineup featuring 10 players who dressed against Columbus on Tuesday. 

This is how the forwards lined up at the morning skate:

96 Anders Bjork - 20 Cody Eakin - 15 John Hayden
38 Axel Jonsson-Fjallby - 25 Arttu Ruotsalainen - 71 Victor Olofsson
57 Brett Murray - 24 Dylan Cozens - 22 Jack Quinn
91 Drake Caggiula - 72 Tage Thompson - 77 JJ Peterka

Seven defensemen skated with the game group on rotating pairs: Jacob Bryson, Will Butcher, Rasmus Dahlin, Casey Fitzgerald, Henri Jokiharju, Colin Miller, and Mark Pysyk. 

3. The goalies

Dustin Tokarski and Aaron Dell will split the game in goal. Buffalo has three goaltenders remaining on the NHL roster - Craig Anderson is the other - after assigning Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen to camp with the Rochester Americans this morning. 

Tokarski has stopped 22 of 23 shots during two preseason appearances. The 32-year-old played 13 games for the Sabres last season, his first NHL action in nearly four years after bouncing between six AHL clubs. 

"He doesn't quit," Granato said. "You see it every drill in practice. He's a fighter and it's awesome to see. He did a great job for us last year coming into a tough situation and he's came here with the approach of, he's got to earn every minute. So, he's earned that tonight and we'll take a look at him again."

4. The competitions 

Buffalo assigned five other players to Rochester on Tuesday in addition to Luukkonen: forwards Matej Pekar, Ryan MacInnis, and Sean Malone, and defenseman Oskari Laaksonen. 

The moves leave the Sabres with 32 healthy players at camp. The team will whittle its roster to 23 players at most prior to opening night. 

Here is a breakdown of who remains. 

Forwards (18): Rasmus Asplund, Anders Bjork, Drake Caggiula, Dylan Cozens, Cody Eakin, Zemgus Girgensons, John Hayden, Vinnie Hinostroza, Axel Jonsson-Fjallby, Casey Mittelstadt, Brett Murray, Kyle Okposo, Victor Olofsson, JJ Peterka, Jack Quinn, Arttu Ruotsalainen, Jeff Skinner, and Tage Thompson.

Defensemen (11): Jacob Bryson, Will Butcher, Rasmus Dahlin, Brandon Davidson, Casey Fitzgerald, Robert Hagg, Henri Jokiharju, Colin Miller, Ethan Prow, Mark Pysyk, and Jimmy Schuldt.

Goaltenders (3): Craig Anderson, Aaron Dell, and Dustin Tokarski.

One standout name from that group is 19-year-old JJ Peterka, who has earned a fourth exhibition game after scoring his second goal of the preseason on Monday.

"He has a very good feel for how to impact situations and his skill level is good enough to do it on most occasions," Granato said. "Those are components of some pretty good maturity already. … The goal was very impressive last night but so were so many other components of his game. As a young guy, he's evolved his game pretty well for his age."

5. The centers

Granato said he feels confident that Mittelstadt and Girgensons will begin the season at center. Beyond that, the competition remains open with a variety of options.

The first name that comes to mind is Dylan Cozens, who moved to center to end last season and saw a share of top-line duties. Granato said the potential remains for Cozens to move to the wing as he develops, be it mid-game or for stretches during the season.

"Dylan's still a young guy," Granato said. "He's still going to have his challenges at center. I mean, it's a tough position. He did outstanding for us last year. Now the expectations rise. And in fairness to him, he's still an evolving centerman in the NHL."

Video: PREGAME: Granato

Tage Thompson, a winger throughout his career, skated at center again this morning after playing the position against Columbus. Arttu Ruotsalainen and Cody Eakin are other candidates down the middle.

"I think we're going to be talking (about) that position a lot over the next month," Granato said. "… Mittsy and Zemgus, I'm pretty certain, are two guys that will stay at center. After that, I think we're still watching."