Ristolainen set up a power-play goal in Tuesday's 5-4 overtime road loss to the Golden Knights. The Finn went minus-1 in the contest, but he was back on track offensively after dropping goose eggs in the points column the prior three contests. Risto is averaging 26:58 of ice time, meaning he should continue to see ample opportunities to light it up for his fantasy owners.
Ristolainen played over 26 minutes for the second straight game Thursday against San Jose, and also registered a team-high six shots on goal. The Sabres have been talking about reducing Ristolainen's ice time for three straight years, but through four games this season he's averaging over 26 minutes per game yet again. Some of that can be attributed to more power-play time with a league-wide crackdown on slashing, but the Sabres just don't have anyone else who can play at both ends of the ice as effectively as Ristolainen. He's doing everything he can to help with two assists and 13 shots on goal, but a revamped blue line hasn't been as much of a help as everyone expected, so head coach Phil Housley is leaning on the young Finn once again. Ristolainen is easily a top-25 defenseman in fantasy, but you really wonder how much pressure and minutes he can take on before he starts to falter. The Sabres have three games remaining in their Western Conference road trip in Los Angeles, Anaheim and Las Vegas.
The Sabres intend to address their leaky defense and better manage Ristolainen's minutes next season, Sportsnet reports. Former head coach Dan Bylsma promised to lighten Ristolainen's load this past season, but he had to eat his words after the Sabres' blue line was decimated by injuries and poor play. The 22-year-old played a career-high 26:28 per game, racking up a career-high 39 assists and 45 points this season, but if the Sabres want to build a competitive team with long-term success, they'll need to surround him with quality players. Whatever the scenario, it's unlikely the Sabres will drastically reduce Ristolainen's role, which means he remains a potential top-20 fantasy defenseman for the 2017-18 season.
Ristolainen recorded a goal, three shots on net, three hits and a minor penalty during Wednesday's win over Montreal. The rearguard had sandwiched a recent three-game suspension with a three-game point drought, but he ended it with a first-period goal Wednesday. For the campaign, Ristolainen is up to six goals, 45 points, 183 shots, 158 blocked shots, 58 PIM and 193 hits -- cross-category production that makes him a valuable asset across the fantasy universe.
Ristolainen has served his three-game suspension for his hit on Pittsburgh forward Jake Guentzel in a March 21 contest. The power-play distributor from the blue line will be all systems go for Sunday's home clash with the Islanders. He'd been in a minor rut offensively -- one point (an assist) in five games -- leading up to the suspension, so with any luck, the brief ban has afforded him the chance to clear his head.
Rank Among Leaders
Last 7 Games
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