DETROIT - Brady Austin took the ice for the Morning Skate on Monday in the Buffalo Sabres' final pregame skate ever at Joe Louis Arena, taking an important step toward fulfilling a lifelong goal.
Earlier in the day, the first recall of his career was made official and he'll make his NHL debut tonight when the Sabres take on the Red Wings.
Video: Preview: BUF at DET (03/20/17)
Austin, a seventh-round pick of the Sabres back in 2012, has spent the past three seasons with the Rochester Americans in the American Hockey League. He's recorded nine points (2+7) and 36 penalty minutes in 61 games for the Amerks this season.
"It's a dream come true," he said. "Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to play in the National League and I'm getting a chance tonight."
Listed at 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds, Austin should provide a physical element to the Sabres blue line.
"The one thing I think I've always liked about Brady is he still has the ability to skate with that size," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. "That's something I'm excited about seeing tonight."
Casey Nelson is back with the team as well because the Sabres defensive corps is once again pretty banged up. Dmitry Kulikov, Cody Franson, Justin Falk and Taylor Fedun are all day-to-day with injuries, but none of them will be able to play tonight.
Nelson, who has posted 13 points (4+9) in 45 AHL games this year, is slated to start the game alongside Jake McCabe while Austin will be paired with Zach Bogosian.
Tonight's game can be seen nationally on NBCSN at 7:30 p.m. Dan Dunleavy and Rob Ray will have the radio call on WGR 550.
Video: BYLSMA: Pregame Interview at Detroit
As a team, the Sabres are coming off a 2-1 shootout win in Anaheim on Friday.
"I think the biggest thing is just continuing to build," captain Brian Gionta said. "That's what we have to do at the end of the season here in these last 10 games, is continue to build and grow as a team. Hopefully we can compile as many wins as we can in that time."
90 Ryan O'Reilly - 15 Jack Eichel - 63 Tyler Ennis
9 Evander Kane - 28 Zemgus Girgensons - 12 Brian Gionta
26 Matt Moulson - 23 Sam Reinhart - 56 Justin Bailey
82 Marcus Foligno - 71 Evan Rodrigues - 52 Hudson Fasching
4 Josh Gorges - 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
29 Jake McCabe - 34 Casey Nelson
67 Brady Austin - 47 Zach Bogosian
40 Robin Lehner
31 Anders Nilsson
Saying farewell to The Joe
Bylsma was born in Grand Haven, Mich., saw his first NHL game at Joe Louis Arena and played there during his college years with Bowling Green. He also won the Stanley Cup at The Joe in 2009 as the coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins in a series that culminated with an unforgettable Game 7. The arena, which will close at the end of the season, clearly holds a special place in his heart.
The walls of outside the locker room are plastered with the names of all of the Stanley Cup winners as well as each player that has won a major NHL award. That celebration of history has always stuck with him.
"To me, this was the ultimate destination point for playing hockey," Bylsma said. "I hope the new building has this stuff on the walls even though it's on cinder block and paint on the walls. You see the history of this building, the history of this franchise and that's kind of my memories coming here."
We'll have more on memories of The Joe in a Travel Blog tomorrow.
And as Jourdon LaBarber noted in this morning's Sharpen Up:
The Sabres won the first five games they played at the Joe, from Feb. 16, 1980 to Dec. 12, 1981. Since then, they haven't won two in a row, which is something they can accomplish with a win tonight. Evander Kane's two goals led the Sabres to victory in their last game in Detroit, on Dec. 28.
Rasmus Ristolainen might miss Joe Louis Arena as much as anyone. The defenseman has eight assists in his last eight games against Detroit, including six in his last four at the Joe. Also, here's this from @SabresPR:
Gilbert Perreault is the Sabres' all-time leading scorer at Joe Louis Arena with 14 points (8+6) in 10 games. With a point tonight, Ristolainen would tie Danny Gare and Pierre Turgeon for fifth on the franchise list with seven points.
(Thanks as always to our Public Relations staff for these stats.)