Coming off of a back-to-back games and with another contest awaiting them on Saturday in Boston, it was not surprise that only a handful of Sabres took the ice for an optional practice at HARBORCENTER on Friday morning.
There was, however, one notable absence. Marcus Foligno is improbable to play on Saturday after sustaining a lower-body injury that caused him to leave the game against the Bruins on Thursday night with six minutes remaining.
"It could be two, three days that we're looking at with this injury," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. "I don’t anticipate it to be week-to-week."
If Foligno is indeed unable to play on Saturday, the Sabres will turn to rookie Daniel Catenacci in his place. Catenacci, 23, was recalled for the first time in his career on Friday afternoon after scoring 16 points (7+9) in 36 games for Rochester this season.
Selected by Buffalo in the third round (77th overall) of the 2011 NHL Draft, Catenacci is currently riding a five-game point streak for the Amerks Rochester. In 182 career games for Rochester, he has 68 points (33+35) and 123 penalty minutes.
Coverage on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. begins with Tops Sabres Gamenight on MSG-B and Bell TV. The game can also be heard live on WGR 550.
TYLER ENNIS IS BACK ON THE ICE
You won't be seeing him return to practice quite yet, but the forward took another step in his recovery with a post-practice skate on Friday. Bylsma said that it was Ennis' second day skating in a row.
"It's moderated, his heart rate is restricted," Bylsma said. "He's gone through some progressions of exercise and he progressed to skating yesterday and on the ice again today. He's made some good improvements, but still not one where he can go all-out on the ice."
Ennis has missed 15 games with an upper-body injury. He previously missed 12 games with a separate upper-body injury in November and December.
RYAN O'REILLY REMAINS ON THE ICE
Bylsma had some say in regards to who he wanted to participate in the optional skate and who he wanted to take the morning to rest, but there was one player he was unable to crack.
"I couldn’t get Ryan O'Reilly not to get out," Bylsma said. "We talked a little bit about him not having a break, so to speak, with the All-Star Game and taking advantage of maybe resting but he wanted to take the opportunity to score some goals today."
O'Reilly leads the team in both goals (17) and assists (25) this season, but it's now been 11 games since he was last able to light the lamp. He does have seven helpers in that stretch, but that hasn't made the any easier for him.
"I've been very frustrated with myself the last few games," he said. "I think I have a lot to learn going forward. I've had the game on my stick in a lot of different areas and not stepped up and made the big plays … I have a lot of work to do in getting back to where I want to be to help the team win."
DESLAURIERS GETTING BACK TO FULL SPEED
Two games into his return from the lower-body injury that cost him a month, Nicolas Deslauriers looked like his old self during a shift in the second period on Thursday.
His strong work on the forecheck combined with that of linemates David Legwand and Matt Moulson produced some lengthy zone time that eventually resulted in Deslauriers drawing a holding penalty from Dennis Seidenberg.
"I was hoping that was going to be the difference in the game," Bylsma said.
It nearly was. Jamie McGinn just barely missed a tip-in goal on the ensuing power play that would have given Buffalo a two-goal lead. While it didn't work out that way, it was an example of what Deslauriers brings to his fourth-line role that the Sabres have missed since the beginning of January.
"I think he's getting up to speed, I don’t think he's fully there yet," Bylsma said. "But in both games, he had five hits in the Montreal game and last night he had three thunderous hits. You see the one he had on Chara at our bench where he's being effective, being a physical guy … I think that line has been its best with Nic back on it."
"With the minutes that we bring we're not going to be the type of line that's gonna be there all night," Deslauriers said. "We have less minutes than people but we need to make it crucial and we need to, like I said, just be physical and bring some penalties."
Deslauriers played just 5:38 of ice time on Thursday, the lowest for any Sabre. But here's the catch: for Deslauriers, the other 54:22 were of equal importance.
"When I'm out there I'm trying to do my job, bring some physicality and emotion to the bench," he said. "When I'm not on the ice I'm trying to do the same thing. You always need to give a tap on the shoulders of somebody that did something good and that’s a part of my game I have to bring too."
His teammates notice.
"I think the locker room in general; the total atmosphere with D-Lo in the room is a lot better," Jack Eichel said. "He's a guy that brings a great attitude, he brings a lot of energy, he brings a smile to the rink every day. He's a guy you love to have on the ice.
"You know he has your back, you know he's going to go out there and work as hard as he can, gives you his everything on every shift. That's a guy you want on your team."
Doing that wasn't so easy for Deslauriers during the time he was injured; the Sabres had seven road games in the month of January during which he was forced to continue his rehabilitation back in Buffalo.
"When I was out they had the long trip in Arizona and a couple other trips so I was stuck by myself a little bit," he said. "It's good to be back. There's nothing like being around the boys."