By all accounts, Justin Bailey aced his first NHL test in Philadelphia on Thursday night. But, in a way, the Williamsville, N.Y. native will be making his debut all over again when he takes the ice against the Montreal Canadiens on Friday night at First Niagara Center.
His mother and grandmother were the only ones able to make it to Wells Fargo Center to watch him play on Thursday. Based on the amount of texts he's received over the past few days, he expects the number of people in attendance to be around 100 on Friday.
"I think tonight will be a little bit the same," Bailey said. "I think it's extra special that it's in my hometown. I've got a ton of family and friends coming tonight so it will be a special one for sure."
It won't be his first time playing on the Sabres' home ice; that came when he was eight or nine years old playing for Amherst. He already played a game there this season with Rochester and even scored a shootout goal.
But tonight, for the first time, it will be the real deal. The Buffalo kid who grew up cheering for Danny Briere and Chris Drury and hoped to one day be as fast as Maxim Afinogenov has, like those players that came before him, his own stall in the home locker room.
"It's crazy," Bailey said. "Getting drafted here was special, stepping on the ice, putting on the jersey during training camp was special and now being able to put on the jersey for real is just another amazing milestone for me."
Bailey will be joined by another recall on Friday, although it remains to be seen who that is. The need for another forward arose when Daniel Catenacci took a high hit from Flyers defenseman Radko Gudas in the third period Thursday nigh and left the game.
"Dan's doing OK," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. "Obviously he was woozy going off the ice last night, I'm sure you saw him stumble going by our bench, but he's doing OK today. He's still dealing with the side effects of the hit, but he's doing OK."
The Sabres were hopeful that Johan Larsson would be ready to return on Friday, but he will miss his third-straight game, as will Zemgus Girgensons (lower body). Girgensons is eligible to return from injured reserve for Sunday afternoon's home game against the Avalanche.
Coverage on Friday begins at 6:30 p.m. with Tops Sabres Gamenight on MSG-B and Bell TV. The game can also be heard live on WGR 550.
McCABE PENALTY RESCINDED
Jake McCabe's penalty for instigating a fight with Gudas following the hit on Catenacci was rescinded by the League, meaning McCabe can and will play against Montreal. Typically, an instigation call in the final five minutes of the game calls for a game misconduct and an automatic one-game suspension.
It appears that Gudas, however, will also avoid any missed time. Bylsma maintained that he hadn’t received official word on Friday morning, but word from the Cherry Hill Courier-Post – citing a League source – was that there will be no hearing in regards to the hit.
Gudas' history certainly played a part in the controversy surrounding the hit and the Sabres' outrage after the game. He was suspended for three games in December for a hit on Ottawa's Mika Zibanejad but has avoided hearings on three other hits that were looked at by the NHL's Department of Player Safety this season.
"It does [surprise me], I think just learning his history," McCabe said. "But it's the League's decision and it's their issue, not mine."
An earlier play from Gudas originally incited anger on the Sabres' bench. Gudas tripped up Marcus Foligno with a low hit as he entered the offensive zone in the second period, which actually led to a Flyers goal on the other end. Foligno fought Gudas after the goal was scored.
"I think the first attempted hit on Foligno, he didn't get quite get all of him so it's OK," alternate captain Josh Gorges said. "But the intent, I think, was there. If he did connect, you know, I think Foligno's in a lot of trouble. I think he's out for a while if he gets knee-on-knee like it was close to [being]. But it didn’t happen so we turned a blind eye to it.
"It's for the League, they're the ones who are going to look at it and determine what's right, what's wrong, what crosses that line and it's not for us. We'll have our opinions, but our opinions don’t matter. But I think sometimes we have to take a look at the intent, not so much the outcome. But that’s a fine line, too."
JOHNSON IN NET; COLAIACOVO RETURNS
Chad Johnson will make his first start in over a week on Friday, his last start having come at home against the Boston Bruins on Feb. 4. He allowed two goals on 33 shots in the 3-1 shootout loss. His last game action came when he finished Tuesday's game against the Panthers. He made 20 saves on 22 shots in the final 39:08, but picked up the loss.
After watching the loss to Philadelphia from the bench, he stressed the need for consistency on Friday.
"It's not like we're giving up a lot of chances, it's just the quality," he said. "I think for us, it's just that mistake or that little lull in our game that allows them to get a grade-A chance or a breakaway or whatever it is and that's the difference right now."
Johnsons also made the point that the Sabres may need to raise their level of intensity to match that of opponents that are currently battling for playoff positioning. The Canadiens, winners of three-straight games and three points out of a wild card spot, certainly fit that bill.
"We need to make sure we match that or exceed that urgency," Johnson said. "It's that time of year, when teams are pushing for playoff spots. We've just seen that in Philly and the previous game there too, they had that little extra effort. That's what's making the difference."
The Sabres will see another change in their lineup in the form of defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo, who will play in his first game since Jan. 2. He's sat the last 15 games as a healthy scratch.
"I think he's handled it like a professional," Bylsma said. "I said to him, his last four practices have been outstanding. He's worked at his game in practice, he's worked diligently, and I told him that's not why he's getting an opportunity to play tonight, but it has shown me exactly where his mindset's been."