Evan Rodrigues admits he was surprised to learn he would be a healthy scratch for the Sabres on opening night. It was his response that left an impression on coach Ralph Krueger.
"He's the one that said to me, 'Somebody's going to be in this spot all season long,'" Krueger said after practice on Tuesday. "He took it really well."
Rodrigues will step into the lineup for his season debut when the Sabres host the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday. He will replace Conor Sheary, who is day-to-day with an upper-body injury.
"He's stayed active, he's been working hard, and his opportunity now comes tomorrow," Krueger said. "He's excited to get back in the lineup. He's been nothing but supportive to his teammates and to the process."
Video: SABRES IN :50
Rodrigues appeared in a career-high 74 contests with the Sabres last season, averaging 15:49 of ice time and tallying 29 points (9+20). It was the first full NHL season for the forward, who signed as an undrafted free agent in 2015 following a productive collegiate career at Boston University.
His ascension to the NHL took hard work and patience. He kept that same approach while being scratched for the first three games this season.
"That's all you can do," he said. "Go about my business and try to get back in the lineup."
Rodrigues practiced on a line with Jimmy Vesey and Casey Mittelstadt, taking the right-wing spot formerly occupied by Sheary. Krueger has stressed patience when it comes to that line and its offense, with Mittelstadt still learning the game away from the puck.
That said, a fresh body in Rodrigues could be an offensive spark. He said his mindset will remain the same as it's been since the outset of camp.
"Just bring the same work ethic and effort that I always do, just play my game," he said. "I'm confident in my ability."
Turning the page
Video: AFTER PRACTICE: Krueger
Krueger spoke positively about the lessons the Sabres can take from their overtime loss in Columbus on Monday, a game in which they erased two deficits and salvaged a point against a desperate Blue Jackets team.
"For us, it's important sometimes to have tough nights right now because we are in a very deep learning phase of changing the way we want to play and developing Sabres hockey here," Krueger said. "Those setbacks are really, really good, especially when you take a point out of them.
"That's the way we're managing it today. We've had a lot of conversations. The players are very clear on what we've done well in the last three games and what we haven't. We're just going to continue to drive towards the well."
The Sabres will look to rebound against the 1-1 Canadiens on Wednesday. Pregame coverage on MSG begins at 6:30 p.m.
Lines at Tuesday's practice
68 Victor Olofsson - 9 Jack Eichel - 23 Sam Reinhart
53 Jeff Skinner - 90 Marcus Johansson - 17 Vladimir Sobotka
13 Jimmy Vesey - 37 Casey Mittelstadt - 71 Evan Rodrigues
28 Zemgus Girgensons - 22 Johan Larsson - 21 Kyle Okposo
19 Jake McCabe - 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
26 Rasmus Dahlin - 33 Colin Miller
6 Marco Scandella - 10 Henri Jokiharju
58 John Gilmour
40 Carter Hutton
35 Linus Ullmark