Justin Bailey admitted he's already had his fair share of ups and downs in his second professional season. After playing in a handful of games with the Buffalo Sabres as a rookie last season, Bailey was one of the first players reassigned to Rochester in camp this October. He said it took about a month or two before he really took a look at what had gone wrong.
"I thought 'Hey, what more could I have done in the summer or what more could I have done during training camp?'" Bailey said. "And I reflected, I looked at a lot of things. But what are you going to do? I worked my butt off down in Rochester to get back up here. That's in the past, I'm trying to look at the present now."
Video: BAILEY: After Practice
The present outlook is much more optimistc. Bailey's recorded five goals and two assists in his last five games for Rochester and said he's felt as good recently as he has at any point in his young career. On Friday, he was rewarded with his second recall of the season. He'll step into the lineup in Boston on Saturday in place of William Carrier, who is out with a hand injury.
Dan Bylsma pointed to Bailey's NHL debut in Philadelphia as the ideal example of what he can bring to the Sabres. He stood out in that game with his combination of speed and size, which he used to be effective on the forecheck. He even earned a handful of grade-A scoring opportunities, although he has not yet netted his first NHL goal.
But more so than his obvious physical gifts and scoring ability, Bailey said his recent success is the product of his working on the small details of his game in practice and seeing them translate come game time. He looks at Carrier, his former linemate in Rochester, as an example of how he can be effective by playing simple.
Carrier has only scored one goal in 24 games, but he's stuck around and even earned time on the top line with his physicality and his speed.
"I think there's a lot of opportunity to be had," he said. "Will's done a great job since he's been up here playing fast, playing physical and playing simple. So I think for me, whatever my role is, it's obviously going to be different than Rochester. I need to adjust to that and simplify my game and do those little things well to keep myself up here."
Bailey practiced on the fourth line with Nicolas Deslauriers and Derek Grant on Friday, and Bylsma said he'll have to earn any opportunities he's going to get on one of the team's top lines. In the meantime, Bailey said he's prepared to play in any situation, including the penalty kill.
Even if the results aren't the same on the ice as they have been during his recent scoring streak, his goal is to make sure his attitude off the ice is.
"From training camp to even the first little bit of the season, there was a lot of ups and downs," he said. "I keep telling myself while I'm on this hot streak to remember what this feeling's like and try to bring that to the rink every single day."
Sabres reflect on Boston game
You could sense the frustration in Buffalo's dressing room following the team's 4-2 loss to Boston on Thursday night, a game that the Sabres led 2-0 after the first period. It was a missed opportunity against a team that the Sabres trailed by only six points in the Atlantic Division standings, and the Sabres felt it was a game they should have been able to win.
"I feel a little bit like you would in a playoff series," Bylsma said. "It's an emotional game, it was a game we poured a lot into and a huge disappointment losing that game and losing it the way we did."
Deslauriers also referred to the game as a playoff-like atmosphere, citing its many momentum swings. They can expect a similar environment when the two teams meet again on Saturday, with the Sabres looking to cancel out their loss and the Bruins looking to further their lead.
Being able to win a game of such magnitude is another step in the team's process of learning to win, but Deslauriers said it simply comes down to staying consistent for all 60 minutes. The accountability and the mindsets in the room, he said, couldn't be better.
"I think just the way we are all in the room, we're all really tight," he said. "We know we battle each other for spots, but at the same time I think everybody just gives there heart out there. We just need to keep going. I think in the room, there's not much we can change. It's probably one of the tightest groups I've been in and it's fun to be a part of it."
Bylsma confirmed that Carrier's hand was not broken in his fight with Boston's Adam McQuaid on Thursday night, but he did not have a timetable for the forward's return. Carrier has been dealing with a hand injury all season and it worsened while fighting McQuaid.
Dmitry Kulikov, meanwhile, did not travel with the team to Boston on Friday and will miss his second game in a row when the Sabres play the Bruins on Saturday afternoon. He remains day-to-day with a lower-back injury.
Lines at practice
82 Marcus Foligno - 15 Jack Eichel - 26 Matt Moulson
9 Evander Kane - 22 Johan Larsson - 12 Brian Gionta
28 Zemgus Girgensons - 23 Sam Reinhart - 21 Kyle Okposo
44 Nicolas Deslauriers - 27 Derek Grant - 56 Justin Bailey
4 Josh Gorges - 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
29 Jake McCabe - 47 Zach Bogosian
41 Justin Falk - 6 Cody Franson
40 Robin Lehner
31 Anders Nilsson