By the time the last game of October ended for the Buffalo Sabres, Nicolas Deslauriers had shown a knack for finishing. He'd scored in that game, a home win over Philadelphia, and had also scored the night before, giving him three for the month.
It didn't hurt that he was playing on Buffalo's top line with Ryan O'Reilly as his centerman.
"I had a completely different role in the beginning," Deslauriers said. "I didn’t change my game, I was bringing the physicality, but I had more chances. Especially when you play on the fourth line with [David Legwand] and whoever else is there, it's more of chip-and-grind and get momentum."
On Thursday night, Sabres coach Dan Bylsma asked Deslauriers to bring that physicality to the team's third line alongside Cal O'Reilly and Zemgus Girgensons. That line had gotten trapped in the defensive zone at time in their previous outing, and Deslauriers' presence was a potential remedy.
What Bylsma wasn't searching for was Deslauriers' long-awaited fourth goal of the season. But that’s what he got.
Deslauriers' marker was imperative to the momentum of the game for Buffalo, coming just 1:12 after the Sabres and Flames had exchanged goals in a span of 15 seconds.
"It was good," he said. "Obviously I'm not a goal scorer, but when I have those chances I just need to capitalize. It's been a while since I've gotten that good look and I think it was just the kind of shot that I've taken in practice.
"It felt awesome to see that one go in, let's hope I can get a couple more the rest of the season."
Deslauriers makes his impact in ways other than providing offense. He's relentless on the forecheck, he's as popular a guy as exists in the dressing room, and he now leads the team with 152 hits despite missing an entire month of the season with a foot injury.
But even with all of that said, he realizes the aid it provides the team when secondary scorers such as him and Marcus Foligno find the back of the net as they did last night, a need that's been amplified by the injury to Ryan O'Reilly and the trade of Jamie McGinn.
"It's a relief for our primary scorers," he said. "Take in all of the NHL, obviously you have some premier players that score almost every game but you need those third, fourth lines to pitch in. Last game was a high-scoring game but it felt good to see everyone pitch in there."
AMERKS TO MAKE THEIR DEBUTS ON FRIDAY
Forwards Cole Schneider and Eric O'Dell lead a group of four players that will make their debuts for the Rochester Americans on Friday night after being acquired from the Ottawa Senators organization in exchange for forwards Philip Varone and Jason Akeson and defenseman Jerome Leduc.
"I think what we have done is exchanged some very high-quality players for high quality-players," Amerks coach Randy Cunneyworth told Amerks.com. "We'll insert them just as they were before, that's exactly what we want."
Schneider, a native of Williamsville, NY, and O'Dell become Rochester's two leading scorers with 42 and 37 points, respectively. Fans in Buffalo can watch them make their debuts against the Springfield Falcons on Time Warner Sports Channel 87.
Sabres captain Brian Gionta was absent after scoring two assists in 15:41 on Thursday, but Bylsma said it was nothing more than a maintenance day. In his absence, Johan Larsson practiced with Eichel, Sam Reinhart, Rasmus Ristolainen and Cal O'Reilly.
"We have used Larsson in that spot before and so we worked him there today in the absence of Brian but not necessarily just because of that," Bylsma said.
Defenseman Cody Franson remained absent with a neck injury.
WILD UP NEXT
The Sabres conclude their three-game homestand on Saturday afternoon against a Minnesota Wild team that's changed a bit since losing to Buffalo by a score of 3-2 on Jan. 12. Minnesota is 7-3-0 in 10 games since dismissing coach Mike Yeo and has won three straight.
"It really falls on the heels of their goal scoring, something they weren’t able to do earlier on this season," Bylsma said. "Since the coaching change they've had a couple of series of goals where they've scored goals, won those games, and when they have not they haven’t had success.
"… They seem to be playing more free, a little more confident with the puck, a little more attacking with the puck and really to their strengths because that's the kind of team they are."
Robin Lehner will make his fourth consecutive start in net for Buffalo on Saturday. Coverage begins at 12:30 p.m. with Tops Sabres Gamenight on MSG-B and Bell TV. The game can also be heard live on WGR 550.