BUFFALO, N.Y. - Sam Reinhart's next step in his NHL progression is a trip to the press box as a healthy scratch.
The No. 2 overall pick in June's draft played in the Buffalo Sabres' first five games and did not register a point. Not in the lineup Saturday night against the Boston Bruins, Reinhart hopes he can pick up a few things about playing in the NHL.
"The biggest thing I'm going to be watching is the intensity of guys, the pace it is," Reinhart said. "When you're up there, you're gaining confidence as you're watching."
Reinhart, a Vancouver native who had 105 points last season for the Kootenay Ice of the Western Hockey League, has struggled to adjust to the pro game early this season.
Sabres coach Ted Nolan believes a game off is the best thing for him.
"Why do you sit out anybody? It's just one of those things," Nolan said. "He's a young player that's still learning, so we'll let him watch a game and then see how he comes (away) from that."
It's not like the Sabres had this in mind as the plan for Reinhart, who opened the season as the second-line centre with Cody Hodgson and captain Brian Gionta. He saw over 13 minutes of ice time in his first two NHL games.
By the time he played Game No. 5 Friday night, he was down to 7:09 while on the fourth line with Nicolas Deslauriers and Cody McCormick.
"We tried to force-feed it at the beginning, we tried to put him with a lot of minutes, top lines, then we backed off a little bit," Nolan said. "Now this is another way to try to get his game going."
By sitting him against the Bruins, the Sabres buy themselves some more time before needing to decide whether to send him back to Kootenay or keep him and burn the first year of his entry-level deal. Reinhart can play up to nine games before the first year of the contract counts.
That ninth game was going to be Oct. 25 at San Jose. With a game off, he could make it to Oct. 28 at Toronto, or the team could send him back at any time.
The 18-year-old said the possibility of going back to junior is not his focus right now.
"Trying to build every day," Reinhart said. "I'm trying to learn every day and get better."
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