One day after seeing Evande Kane return to the lineup from injury, the Sabres announced that Tyler Ennis will be sidelined for several weeks after undergoing surgery on his groin on Thursday morning. Ennis only skated 7:33 of ice time against Boston on Monday night and missed Buffalo's game against Ottawa on Wednesday.
The injury marks another chapter in a difficult two seasons for Ennis. He was limited to 23 games in 2015-16 due to multiple injuries, including a concussion that ended his season in December. Ennis has scored one goal and one assist in 12 games this season.
"It's disappointing for Tyler," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said after practice on Wednesday. "This is a situation he's been dealing with for the past little while, days, maybe a week. I'm kind of just extremely disappointed to get the news that he's gonna be out for a bit of time, have the surgery which he had this morning. He's had a tough go getting on the ice and playing games for the last nine months."
Video: BYLSMA: After Practice
Meanwhile, injuries to Ryan O'Reilly and Dmitry Kulikov kept them off the ice at practice as well. Bylsma said that both players are day-to-day and both remain possible to play against the New Jersey Devils on Friday night. Kulikov skated 23:44 on Wednesday; O'Reilly was scratched due to his injury.
If O'Reilly does miss more time, we might continue to see an increased role for Derek Grant. Grant assumed primary faceoff duties in O'Reilly's absence on Wednesday and won 14 of his team-high 20 draws. He's won 59.5 percent of his faceoffs this season, which ranks 12th amongst NHL forwards with at least 80 attempts.
Grant's success in the faceoff circle even pushed Bylsma to use him to take draws in certain situations on the top line between Evander Kane and Kyle Okposo on Wednesday.
"When Derek Grant goes 14-6, he's gonna be the guy taking the majority of them," Bylsma said. "That put him on the ice more and more in bigger situations for us because of his ability last night to win draws. That's something we needed from him without Ryan in the lineup for us."
Grant also becomes even more instrumental on the penalty kill with O'Reilly out of the lineup. Grant already ranks 23rd amongst the League's forwards with 31:34 of shorthanded ice time and his 59.1-percent mark (13-for-22) on shorthanded faceoffs ranks fifth among players with at least 10 attempts.
"I think faceoffs and the penalty kill are probably the two things that I take the most pride in in my game," Grant said. "I think with [O'Reilly] out it's obviously a bigger role and I'm gonna be seeing the dots a little bit more. I just try to approach each one the same with the mentality that I'm gonna win it."
Grant said he's been feeling more comfortable offensively in the games since becoming linemates with Nicholas Baptiste, and he played alongside another familiar face with the recall of former Binghamton Senators teammate Cole Schneider on Wednesday. The trio connected on a goal by Baptiste quickly after Grant won a faceoff early in the first period.
It was Grant's first point as a Sabre, and it came against his former organization in Ottawa.
"It's always a little bit more fun playing those guys," he said. "You play with a little bit more of an edge I think. Ever since you grow up, it's more fun beaten your buddies too so I have a few buddies over there and it's fun beating those guys."
Regardless of whether O'Reilly plays or not on Friday, the Sabres would like to see more scoring from the bottom of their lineup. The Sabres rank 28th in the League with 26 goals through 13 games, 13 of which have come from either Kyle Okposo, Ryan O'Reilly or Matt Moulson.
The fourth line of Schneider, Grant and Baptiste was able to contribute Wednesday and may have earned itself more opportunities going forward. Regular fourth-line forward Nicolas Deslauriers is 12 days removed from sustaining a knee injury against Florida on Oct. 29, but Bylsma said it will still be another two weeks at least before he's able to take another step in his rehabilitation.
"I liked that line," Bylsma said. "I would like to use that line more. They had success as a line in training camp. They got us a goal last night, which we desperately needed, got it from scoring from up and down our lineup which we need to get and they gave it to us last night. Again, I'd like to see that line play a little bit more and be more effective."
Lines at Thursday's practice
9 Evander Kane - 23 Sam Reinhart - 21 Kyle Okposo
82 Marcus Foligno - 22 Johan Larsson - 12 Brian Gionta
48 William Carrier - 28 Zemgus Girgensons - 26 Matt Moulson
10 Cole Schneider - 27 Derek Grant - 73 Nicholas Baptiste
Defensemen: 55 Rasmus Ristolainen, 4 Josh Gorges, 34 Casey Nelson, 29 Jake McCabe, 6 Cody Franson
40 Robin Lehner
31 Anders Nilsson
Friday is Military Appreciation Night at KeyBank Center, and the Sabres are offering all active, reserve, National Guard and retired military personnel the opportunity to purchase tickets in the 300 Level for $25. Buffalo will host the New Jersey Devils for the first game in a back-to-back, home-and-home set.
Video: Sabres in :90 (11/10/16)
Visit sabres.com/military to purchase tickets, or click here for more information on the night. If you're not able to make it downtown, tune into coverage beginning with the TOPS Pregame Show at 6:30 p.m. on MSG-B or listen live on WGR 550. The puck drops at 7 p.m.