While the Buffalo Sabres began their season earlier this month, Justin Falk was stuck waiting around to watch.
After sustaining an injury late in training camp, the first week and a half of his rehabilitation called for rest. So, rather than building on a camp in which he had impressed a new coaching staff, he found himself staying up late, waiting to watch the team's West Coast games from afar.
"The timing wasn't great," Falk said. "But you show what you can in training camp and then now, more importantly you've got to make sure that you're back to the point that you can make a good impression again, whenever that time may be."
That time may be coming soon. Sabres coach Phil Housley said Friday that Falk is nearing game status, and left the door open for his inclusion in the lineup against the San Jose Sharks on Saturday afternoon.
His return will bolster a defensive corps that's also missing Zach Bogosian, Nathan Beaulieu and Josh Gorges due to injuries. Taylor Fedun and Zach Redmond were recalled last week to help fill the void.
Video: Sabres Now (10/27/17)
Falk prides himself on being a steady, reliable presence in the defensive end. He became that for the Sabres last season, averaging 13:42 in a career-high 52 games. In camp this fall, he worked to assimilate his game to the offensive responsibilities that come as a part of Housley's system.
"I thought the training camp went well for me, personally," Falk said. "I'm trying to use my skating a bit more to my advantage. [Housley] is wanting D involved to get up ice, supporting the attack and all that and I think that's helping me have better instinct and assertiveness."
The key to making sure he's not sacrificing his physicality and defensive presence, Falk said, is control. Defensemen joining the rush have to pick their spots well, based not only on the opportunity presented but also on their energy level on a given shift.
"Mainly, I want to make sure that I can shut things down in our end as quick as possible do that our guys can get on offense, so that they can do what they do best," he said. "I feel like if I do that, stay physical, then it'll lead to good things the other way."
Here's more notes from practice at HaborCenter on Friday:
Bogosian remains week-to-week
Video: After Practice: HOUSLEY
Housley said that Bogosian has been reevaluated and continues to make strides in his rehabilitation from a lower-body injury, but added that he remains week-to-week. Bogosian is still limited to off ice activity.
"He's making some good progress," Housley said. "I'd still say it's a week-to-week at this point, but he's still made strides forward, he continues to push himself and we're just going to have to focus on the day-to-day evaluation with him."
At the net-front
One area of emphasis from Housley and the players who spoke following a 5-1 loss in Columbus on Wednesday was that the Sabres hadn't done a good enough job of taking away the vision from reigning Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky.
The one goal they did get in that game, from Seth Griffith, came as the result of just that. Johan Larsson forced a takeaway in the Columbus zone and then was able to screen Bobrovsky just as Griffith took his shot:
Video: BUF@CBJ: Griffith snipes wrister past Bobrovsky
Getting to the net-front takes a physical toll and requires a certain mentality, but Larsson said it's also a matter of timing on behalf of both the low forward and those who are taking the shots.
"You can always do a better job trying to get to the goalie's eyes," he said. "I think we're swinging by [the net] a little too much."
Housley explained further:
"Within our system, we always have a guy hanging around down low just in case we have to send it back around the net," he said. "He's going to be the closest guy to get to the net front. I thought Columbus did a very good job of boxing us out early which didn't allow us, but we've got to find a way to fight through that.
"We've addressed it. We're going to have to spin off of checks, but certainly we can't have a goaltender seeing as many pucks as they did last game."
Lines at practice
9 Evander Kane - 15 Jack Eichel - 29 Jason Pominville
67 Benoit Pouliot - 90 Ryan O'Reilly - 21 Kyle Okposo
28 Zemgus Girgensons - 23 Sam Reinhart - 95 Justin Bailey
17 Jordan Nolan - 22 Johan Larsson - 25 Seth Griffith / 26 Matt Moulson
6 Marc Scandella - 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
19 Jake McCabe - 5 Matt Tennyson
93 Victor Antipin - 38 Zach Redmond
41 Justin Falk - 27 Taylor Fedun
40 Robin Lehner
31 Chad Johnson
Unit 1: Reinhart - O'Reilly - Pominville - Ristolainen - Tennyson
Unit 2: Kane - Eichel - Okposo - Antipin - Scandella