CALGARY – The last six games have been up and down for the Buffalo Sabres, who have lost two straight following a four-game point streak. But through this six-game stretch, there has been one constant: Jamie McGinn has found his way onto the score sheet.
McGinn’s assist on Brian Gionta’s goal in Vancouver on Monday extended his point streak to six games, a new career-high for the eight-year veteran. He could’ve had another, too. Although he wasn’t credited, his work on the end boards led to Sam Reinhart’s goal in the third period.
“I’m just trying to keep it simple out there,” McGinn said. “Continue to work hard, I feel like I’m starting to get my game back. It was a long layoff last year, being hurt, so it takes a little bit to get back into it.
“It’s nice to be back in the rhythm of things now and contributing, but at the end of the day I’m not really worried about that. I’m worried about winning hockey games.”
McGinn has certainly been a factor in Buffalo’s recent wins, going back to a two-assist performance in a 4-2 win against Carolina on Nov. 27. He scored the next night in Nashville, tallied a helper in Detroit, scored again against Arizona and now has an assist in each of Buffalo’s last two games in Edmonton and Vancouver.
Prior to that game against the Hurricanes, he hadn’t notched a point in his eight prior contests.
“It’s just sticking with it,” McGinn said. “There’s going to be ups and downs through the year, the thing is how you come out of it and continue to work at it and don’t get frustrated by it. We’re all human and it does get frustrating. But you have to get past that, stick with it and work hard every day. The bounces are starting to go my way now.”
McGinn has been rewarded for his play by the coaching staff when it comes to his spot on the depth chart. He began playing on a line with Jack Eichel in the win against Arizona on Friday, a decision that Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said he made after considering how McGinn had brought the best out of the young center earlier this season.
Bylsma pointed in particular to Buffalo’s 4-1 win in Tampa Bay on Nov. 10. That game, the coach said, was Eichel’s best of the year thanks in part to McGinn’s presence on the ice.
In the third period against Vancouver, however, Bylsma switched McGinn to the Sabres’ top line with Ryan O'Reilly and Sam Reinhart. The move resulted in Reinhart’s goal 1:31 into the period. McGinn fought for the puck behind the net and fed O’Reilly, who wrapped around and found Reinhart in the slot.
“He’s a smart player that puts himself in the right places,” Reinhart said. “I think that we had success on that line and that’s with him working down low. You saw right when he came on with us we created a lot of chances.”
McGinn was beside O’Reilly and Reinhart again at practice on Wednesday, which is what Bylsma said we can expect to see when the Sabres play the Flames on Thursday night.
“When Jack was at his best, Jamie was playing next to him,” Bylsma said. “He’s a straight-line guy, he’s a straight-forward guy, hard forechecking guy and that’s what he’s added and he’ll be adding it next to Ryan tomorrow night.”
Regardless of whom he plays with, McGinn’s focus remains the same: keep it simple, play physical and open up ice for his linemates. If he does that, more points – and hopefully wins – could be on the way.
“I’m trying to be physical out there, bring energy, and trying to do the right thing,” he said. Trying to get pucks behind, trying to create energy for the team – it’s something we need right now and I think there are some guys who are doing a very good job of that … that’s what I want to do as well.”
88 Jamie McGinn – 90 Ryan O'Reilly – 23 Sam Reinhart
9 Evander Kane – 15 Jack Eichel – 12 Brian Gionta
26 Matt Moulson – 28 Zemgus Girgensons – 22 Johan Larsson
44 Nicolas Deslauriers – 17 David Legwand/19 Cal O'Reilly – 82 Marcus Foligno
4 Josh Gorges – 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
25 Carlo Colaiacovo – 47 Zach Bogosian
29 Jake McCabe/6 Mike Weber – 46 Cody Franson
31 Chad Johnson
35 Linus Ullmark