Marcus Foligno, considered day-to-day after sustaining a lower-body injury Thursday night, will not be able to go for the Sabres on Saturday when the take on the Boston Bruins in the second game of a home-and-home series at TD Garden. So Catenacci, riding a five-game point streak in the American Hockey League, has been called up and will suit up for his first NHL game.
Catenacci skated on a line with center David Legwand and wing Nicolas Deslauriers during the team's morning skate.
He received the good news on Friday from Rochester Americans coach Randy Cunneyworth, but it didn't start out that way.
"I went to the rink and did some video. Then the coaches called me in and started yelling at me," Catenacci said.
For the second time that day, they reviewed a play in which Catenacci made a turnover.
"Why did you let this happen last game?" they yelled at him. Catenacci thought something might be up, but Cunneyworth stuck with the bit.
"He said, 'Get the hell out of my office,'" Catenacci recalled. "I turned around, he grabs me, he starts smiling. He's like, 'You're going up.' That was it there."
Catenacci played in his first NHL preseason game this fall and he gained some valuable experience from that.
"It's obviously not a real NHL game, but it's pretty damn close," he said. "I think tonight I just have to be confident and not worry about the butterflies and all that stuff. I'm here to do a job. I just want to play well and play hard for the team."
Sabres coach Dan Bylsma had the chance to watch Catenacci live in action during the All-Star break when he took in a few Amerks games. His scouting report – Catenacci plays with a lot of speed and tenaciousness – matched up with what he'd been hearing from the coaches in Rochester. That played a big part in why the 22-year-old forward received the call.
"He's put in a lot of time. I know talking with him during training camp and going through training camp with him, I know his road a little bit on where he's come as a player," Bylsma said. "To see him play last week – really playing a different way for him than I know he came into the league playing as a player – he's earned his shot to play his first game."
Catenacci was drafted for his offensive prowess – he posted three-straight 70-plus-point season in the Ontario Hockey League – but since then, he's developed a two-way game. He sees time on both the power play and the penalty kill for the Amerks.
One Sabres player who's known Catenacci since those days is goaltender Robin Lehner, who was Catenacci's roommate during the 2009-10 in Sault Ste. Marie.
"He's a good kid," Lehner said. "He's fast, he's pretty skilled. He's been working hard. It's good that he gets this shot."
Catenacci and Lehner were able to reconnect during training camp and last month when Lehner was with Rochester during a conditioning stint. Catenacci said not much about Lehner has changed over the years.
"He's grown a bigger beard. He used to be clean-shaven so he's changed that way," he said with a smile. "No, but he's still the same person – treats me like a little brother. He's a great guy to me."
LEHNER GETS THE START
Lehner will start in goal for Buffalo as they take on the Bruins on Saturday. In his five games since returning from a high ankle sprain that caused him to miss 39 games, he's 2-3-0 with a .939 save percentage and a 2.22 goals-against average.
"I feel like I've played a lot more calm, more patient, just letting things come to me," Lehner said. "I haven't been flying around as much. That's help. I've just got to keep staying patient and calm. Hopefully I'll do that today again."
BRING THE GRIT
One other lineup change will see Mike Weber in for defenseman Jake McCabe. While Bylsma said he likes the way the defensive corps has played lately, he sees a game against the Bruins in Boston as a good opportunity to plug Weber back in.
"This is a team he's played well against and I think last game, when you go on the penalty kill in the third period and in overtime, you're missing Mike Weber on the ice for those. He's going to get a chance tonight to do that for us," Bylsma said.
"I thought we played with a lot of grit, a lot of physicality last game. There are some guys over there he needs to pay attention to and bring that grit to the game."
The Bruins came out on top 3-2 in a shootout on Thursday and the extra grit Weber can bring should serve the Sabres well when it comes to the end of this home-and-home series.
"I like the animosity [a home-and-home series] brings in the game. I like the – I don't want to say rivalry aspect to it – but you don't like looking at the same players too often and you start to build that animosity," Bylsma said. "Frankly, I think that's where we need to be at to have success in this game tonight."
Pregame coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. on MSG-B and Bell TV. The game can also be heard live on WGR 550 with puck drop scheduled for 7 p.m.
WELCOME BACK, JACK
The last time Jack Eichel played at TD Garden, the rookie center had a career-high four points, picking up two goals and two assists in Buffalo's 6-3 win on Dec. 26.
While he may have been nervous before his first professional game in his hometown, he's feeling a bit more comfortable now.
"The pregame nerves and jitters aren't there as much. I'm excited for the game," he said. "It's another one to play in front of my family and friends in my hometown. It's going to be another big game, but more than anything, we need these two points."
He's slated to center Zemgus Girgensons and Matt Moulson, who replaces Foligno on the line.
Eichel will also be featured in Saturday's edition of Sabres Showdown. His head-to-head matchup against Rasmus Ristolainen will air during the broadcast on MSG. You can catch previous matchups at sabres.com/showdown.
88 Jamie McGinn – 90 Ryan O'Reilly – 23 Sam Reinhart
28 Zemgus Girgensons – 15 Jack Eichel – 26 Matt Moulson
9 Evander Kane – 22 Johan Larsson – 12 Brian Gionta
43 Dan Catenacci – 17 David Legwand – 44 Nicolas Deslauriers
4 Josh Gorges – 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
47 Zach Bogosian – 3 Mark Pysyk
6 Mike Weber – 46 Cody Franson
40 Robin Lehner
31 Chad Johnson
Scratched: 25 Carlo Colaiacovo (healthy), 29 Jake McCabe (healthy), 82 Marcus Foligno (injured, lower-body)