Buffalo Sabres fans in attendance at First Niagara Center for the team’s first preseason home game will be treated to a more veteran lineup.
New additions Brian Gionta, Josh Gorges and Andrej Meszaros will be suiting up for the first time when Buffalo takes on the Carolina Hurricanes at 7 p.m. The game can be heard live on WGR 550.
Gionta, a native of Rochester, is eager to play in front of the hometown fans.
“Being a home game, it’s even better,” he said. “Not quite sure what to expect, but I’m looking forward to it.”
Gorges has spent parts of the past eight seasons with Montreal and said that like in years past, this preseason will be spent on preparing for the regular season. However, now that he’s with a new team, he feels that nothing that has happened in the past can be taken for granted, not even his reputation as a leader and a reliable defender.
“I’ve got to earn the respect of my teammates. I’ve got to the earn respect of my coaches. I’ve got to go out there and earn my ice time,” he said. “I’ve got to prove and show to my teammates and everyone in this organization what I can do. I don’t want anything handed to me, so this is the opportunity to start that.”
Gorges served as an alternate captain for the Canadiens last year where Gionta was the captain. They’ll both wear As Tuesday night along with wing Matt Moulson, who assumed a leadership role with Buffalo last season.
Being in the lineup presents them with the opportunity to start things off on the right foot as training camp rolls on.
“For all of us as a group, this is the time to start practicing winning,” Gorges said. “Get that mindset of, ‘We’re here for the right reasons’ and develop those good habits. That’ll lead to the regular season.”
26 Matt Moulson – 63 Tyler Ennis – 21 Drew Stafford
20 Zac Dalpe – 28 Zemgus Girgensons – 12 Brian Gionta
44 Nicolas Deslauriers – 23 Sam Reinhart – 80 Chris Stewart
53 Brendan Lemieux – 25 Mikhail Grigorenko – 36 Patrick Kaleta
4 Josh Gorges – 57 Tyler Myers
29 Jake McCabe – 3 Mark Pysyk
61 Andre Benoit – 41 Andrej Meszaros
1 Jhonas Enroth
50 Nathan Lieuwen
GUESS WHO’S BACK
After sustaining a knee injury in late November, Patrick Kaleta has been rehabbing hard and is ready to show what he can do on the ice again. The excitement level is high for the Buffalo native, mostly in anticipation of shaking the rust off. He has a feeling the nerves subside pretty quickly once he gets into the flow of the game.
“To be honest, I’m pretty nervous too,” he said. “It’s been a while since I’ve played a game and I think the excitement part is starting to take over.”
He’s slated to play on a line with 2012 first-round pick Mikhail Grigorenko and 2014 second-round pick Brendan Lemieux.
He is also fighting for a roster spot and with the League watching him because of his history with suspension and fines, he will have to be very mindful of his style of play.
“We want Kaleta to be Kaleta. We want him to play with the same fire and spark that he’s always played with,” Sabres coach Ted Nolan said. “But sometimes, there’s that line you might cross and he crossed it a few times. We don’t want him to cross that line. We want him to play effectively; we want him to play gritty. We want him to play like a pain in the butt that he could be, but within the confines of the rules.”
It won’t all be experienced players for Buffalo. Two of Buffalo’s draft picks from this year’s draft will be in the lineup against Carolina. Lemieux and Sam Reinhart, the second overall selection, will have a chance to show the home crowd what the future may have in store.
Both have fathers who played in the NHL. Reinhart’s dad, Paul, was a two-time All-Star who played in 648 regular-season games over 11 seasons. Lemieux’s father is four-time Stanley Cup champion Claude Lemieux.
Having those bloodlines has helped lead each of them to be very eager in seeking out the coaching staff, looking for ways to improve.
“[Lemieux is] a very personable young man. He wants feedback,” Nolan said. “He’s one of the younger players that actually comes to you and ask how he did, how he looked. It’s not in a suck-up mode. He really wants to learn. He wants to get here and he comes from good stock. His father knows the game, same as Reinhart. They know what the game’s all about. They want information.”
The Sabres have returned nine players to their respective junior clubs:
Forwards: Joseph Blandisi (Barrie, OHL), Eric Cornel (Peterborough, OHL), Michael Joly (Rimouski, QMJHL), Vaclav Karabacek (Gatineau, QMJHL) and Jack Rodewald (Moose Jaw, WHL)
Defensemen: Ryan MacKinnon (Charlottetown, QMJHL), Brycen Martin (Swift Current, WHL) and Jared Walsh (Mississauga, OHL)
Goaltender: Francois Brassard (Quebec, QMJHL)