After a long practice on Wednesday and a hard-fought game on Thursday, the Buffalo Sabres were back on the ice Friday morning at First Niagara Center.
Tyler Ennis and Cody McCormick were given rest days. Both should be ready to go Saturday night when the Buffalo Sabres take on the Pittsburgh Penguins at Consol Energy Center.
Defenseman Tyson Strachan, who played in his second game of the season Thursday night, looks like he’ll be staying in the lineup for the foreseeable future. He skated with Mike Weber while Andrej Meszaros – a healthy scratch against the Bruins on Thursday – worked alongside Nikita Zadorov.
Stachan played 13:47 against Boston and has one assist on the year. He said he’s used to coming in after long stretches of sitting out and hasn’t felt out of place on the ice.
“Composure’s a big part of my game and I don’t think I lost that part of it,” Strachan said. “Just a play here and there, the quickness of the game is something you need to take a little bit of time to get back into the swing of, but you practice at a high pace every day with guys and I’ve been through it before so I know how to handle that situation. I feel like I can jump in whenever.”
Coach Ted Nolan has been impressed with Strachan’s play so far.
“I know it was tough for him sitting out all those games, but you wait,” he said. “We wait for someone’s misfortune to make it your fortune. And Tyson did that.”
Sam Reinhart did not skate as he was assigned to his junior club, the Kootenay Ice of the Western Hockey League, before practice.
Jhonas Enroth will once again start in goal in Pittsburgh.
IN THE MIDDLE AGAIN
Cody Hodgson was back at center on a line with Marcus Foligno and Chris Stewart. He played on the fourth line against the Bruins. He has one goal and one assist through 11 games.
“Cody Hodgson is one of the players that we rely on. He’s got to be better like all of us do,” Nolan said. “Last night, he was cut down on his minutes. I thought he responded well.”
A HEALTHY COMPETITION
After some line work, the squad split into two teams for a shootout relay that had the players loosen up a bit as well as have them focus on putting the puck in the net.
“It’s just nice to have a little competition or something,” forward Brian Flynn, who will play against the Penguins, said. “It usually brings the best out of you, gets a little more life out there. You need to do fun things like that every once in awhile.”
After the relay, the defensemen focused on some shooting drills from the point.
Even goaltender Matt Hackett, who is recovering from a knee injury sustained in April, partook.
HERE OR LONDON
Reinhart was sent back because the team was pressed to make a decision. He had played nine games and if he dressed for a 10th, his entry-level contract would kick in and he would not be able to return to junior.
The Sabres face a similar situation with Zadorov, who has played in only one game so far this season. He cannot play for the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League due to his age and contract status, so Buffalo’s only option would be to send him to the London Knights, the junior club that owns his rights.
There are other circumstances, including a Kontinental Hockey League team that owns Zadorov’s rights that might prevent him from reporting to London. That however, is out of the Sabres hands as their only options are to keep him in the NHL or assign him to London.
“I just know he stays here for us or we assign him to London. And after that, we won’t be involved. We can’t be involved,” Sabres general manager Tim Murray said. “We’ve tried every avenue and we’ve been shut down at every avenue. We can’t send him to the American [Hockey] League.”
Murray said that the Knights ownership group is eager to get Zadorov back in their lineup.
26 Matt Moulson – 21 Drew Stafford
17 Torrey Mitchell – 28 Zemgus Girgensons – 12 Brian Gionta
82 Marcus Foligno – 19 Cody Hodgson – 80 Chris Stewart
44 Nicolas Deslauriers – 65 Brian Flynn – 36 Patrick Kaleta
4 Josh Gorges – 57 Tyler Myers
6 Mike Weber – 24 Tyson Strachan
61 Andre Benoit – 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
51 Nikita Zadorov – 41 Andrej Meszaros
1 Jhonas Enroth
34 Michal Neuvirth
31 Matt Hackett
Patrick Kaleta practiced with the team and is getting closer to returning, but Nolan said they’re waiting to get clearance from the medical staff before he’ll be able to play in a game. He had facial surgery after taking a slap shot to the face in a preseason game back on Sept. 28.