Lawrence Pilut never touched the ice with the Buffalo Sabres at training camp, but it was there he began to make an impression on Ralph Krueger. The coach took note of the defenseman's personality as he worked through the final stages of recovery from offseason hip surgery.
If camp was Krueger's introduction to Pilut the person, then the team's trip to Sweden in November was where the coach got a firsthand look at the defenseman's skillset. Pilut did not dress for either Global Series contest, but he practiced with the team for the duration of the trip.
Tuesday marked another opportunity for Pilut, who was with the Sabres for practice once again after earning another recall from Rochester.
"He's gone down and played really, really well," Krueger said. "We're getting good reports back to us, so we're excited to see him now here again with us in this next phase of development and possibly gonna be seeing him play in the next few games."
Video: Tuesday's Practice Report: Pilut Recalled
Pilut's recall was precipitated by an injury to fellow left-shot defenseman Jake McCabe, who will miss the team's game in St. Louis on Thursday. Krueger said the team is optimistic McCabe will be available to play its next game, at home against Vancouver on Saturday.
If Pilut does join the lineup, it will mark his first NHL contest since last season's finale in Detroit. He played 33 games with Buffalo last season, his first in North America, tallying six points (1+5) and averaging 17:25.
His time in Buffalo offered several flashes of the decisive, offensively gifted player who was named the Swedish Hockey League's Defenseman of the Year one year prior. It also served as a learning experience at hockey's highest level. The greates lesson, he says, was the importance of staying mentally fresh through the long grind of the season.
"Just keep that mind fresh all the time," he said. "That's a big thing. I think that's what I worked on a lot. I think I'm ready for that."
Pilut's surgery delayed his start to this season to Oct. 18. He tallied a goal and two assists in his fourth game, in Syracuse on Oct. 26, and the points have come steadily ever since. He has 21 points (5+16) in 29 contests with Rochester and was named an AHL All-Star for the second straight year.
"I think I've just been working on that consistency, trying to play at a high level all the time and just try to focus on my D-zone play all the time," he said. "I think that's been a big part of me so far. I think I can just keep going on that and keep developing also the offensive skill I have."
Video: AFTER PRACTICE: Ralph Krueger
Jack Eichel and Kyle Okposo took maintenance days while Michael Frolik remained absent as he continues to work through the immigration process.
Eichel and Okposo are both expected to be back at practice on Wednesday. Krueger said the Sabres are also hopeful that Frolik will be able to join them in time for practice, though it had not yet been confirmed by the time he met with the media.
"We're hoping that that all goes well and that he joins us tomorrow, but we won't know that until some other issues are cleared up this afternoon," Krueger said. "Of course, the hope as coaches is that you get a good day of practice with him before the St. Louis game."