When they convened on Monday morning, the Buffalo Sabres took the time to watch the goal celebrations from their 4-1 win over Colorado the day before. Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart each celebrated for the 17th time this season, albeit in their own particular fashions.
Eichel's was the more demonstrative of the two: a double fist pump, one knee in the air, shouting as he glided across the ice. Reinhart's was a simple and subtle fist pump as he awaited his teammates near the net, which, by the way, has become his signature goal-scoring location.
In a way, those celebrations are indicative of the contrasting personalities of Buffalo's two youngest players. Eichel, who turned 19 in October, is by all accounts the more vocal of the two, the jokester in the dressing room, while Reinhart, who celebrated his 20th birthday in November, is quiet, reserved, yet intelligent and equally well-liked among his teammates.
Maybe one is the yin to the other's yang because ask any of their teammates and they'll tell you all about the close bond that the two rookies have formed over the last six months. Back in November, Reinhart even mentioned that they've already discussed living together in the future.
"They became really good friends and that’s great to see," Marcus Foligno said. "I think sometimes when you have young kids, you don’t want egos to get in the way or anything – but they definitely don’t have that. Down to Earth kids, they're fun to be around, they're respectful of the older guys and they know their place in this room and they know what they have to do.
"For being at their age, they're very professional. I guess that's the best way to describe them."
When both players scored in the first period against Colorado, they each inched closer to the League's rookie goal-scoring lead, currently held at 18 by Chicago's Artemi Panarin and Detroit's Dylan Larkin. Eichel showed a flash of his trademark sarcasm when asked if he'd like to score more goals than Reinhart by season's end.
"Yeah, of course," he said, smiling. "No, it's great. Sam's been hot after break and he's scored a lot of big goals for our team so whoever's getting them, as long as we're getting those two points it's the most important thing."
Perhaps it's appropriate, then, that aside from the potential for a rookie scoring title, there is another significant mark that the two rookies can achieve together. If both reach 20 goals, as their current pace suggests, they'd be the first pair of Sabres rookies to do so since Danny Gare (31) and Peter McNab (22) in 1974-75.
"I think a lot of people sometimes forget how young they really are because of how mature they play and handle themselves," Bogosian said. "It's an easy thing even as a teammate to forget, you know? Jack's 19. Sam's 20. It's good to see them because they're two very good players but more importantly they're good people. That's the type of people you want to build your team around."
The Sabres have a plethora of talented players at age 25 or younger, including Bogosian. Ryan O'Reilly, Zemgus Girgensons and Rasmus Ristolainen are only a few. And yet, as a testament to the respect they've earned, Bogosian had no problem identifying Eichel and Reinhart as the foundation for the organization's future.
"If you can start with those two and you surround those guys with good, core guys, guys that have been around or have good leadership qualities then I think you have a recipe for success," he said. "I think they're two really good players right now, obviously it's their first year but they're going to continue to grow and grow."
KANE WILL NOT PLAY AGAINST OTTAWA
Evander Kane was absent from practice on Monday morning, which Bylsma attributed to the forward oversleeping. Bylsma expressed disappointment with the situation and announced that Kane will be suspended for Buffalo's game in Ottawa on Tuesday night.
"He slept in, missed [practice], called [General Manager] Tim [Murray] and myself and broke a team rule," Bylsma said. "We will be dealing with it internally, but he will not be playing in Ottawa."
Johan Larsson returned to practice on Monday after missing four games with a lower-body injury. He sustained his injury at the Sabres' morning skate prior to their game against the Florida Panthers last Tuesday.
Larsson has recorded just six points (2+4) in 50 games this season, but has brought value to the team in his ability to match up defensively with opponents' top lines.
"Larsson with his line has been really playing secondary matchup situations and sometimes primary against the other team's best line and they've done a good job in doing so," Bylsma said. "We desperately missed that when he's been out."
Foligno and Brian Gionta served in that role alongside Larsson in the weeks leading up to his injury, and Bylsma suggested that we could see a reunion of that line on Tuesday. Foligno said he would welcome it.
"I think with Larsson it's more just his compete level," Foligno said. "He's very smart, he's fast in short bursts and he's tough to play against. He works really hard and he ticks off a lot of centermen who are the top people on the other team. "
Larsson said he felt good on Monday and that he's ready to go back to embracing his role against the Senators on Tuesday.
"I take responsibility in that, trying to be a tough guy to play against every shift," he said. I want to be responsible, defensively, take care of the puck, and you know you always want to create offense too."
Coverage on Tuesday begins at 7 p.m. with Tops Sabres Gamenight on MSG-B and Bell TV. The game can also be heard live on WGR 550. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.