NEWARK, NEW JERSEY – When the Buffalo Sabres take on the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday, they’ll have some big help back on the blue line.
Tyler Myers practiced with the team at Prudential Center on Monday and will be back in the lineup for Buffalo. He’s missed the past six games with a lower-body injury. Since he’s been out, the Sabres have gone 1-4-1.
The 24-year-old defenseman has averaged 25:21 per game this season. Prior to the injury, which occurred in the game on Dec. 20 against Colorado, he was on a 10-game stretch in which he’d logged more ice time than at any other point in his six-year career. He last led the Sabres in ice time in a season during his rookie campaign in 2009-10, when he averaged 23:44 per game.
“Physically, it wasn’t a problem at all. Whatever they decide to give me coming back here, I’m just going to play the way I was before the injury,” he said after practice. “It’s just a matter of coming in with a mindset and whether that’s 19 minutes or 30 minutes, it’s the same mindset the whole time.”
He has eight points (1+7) on the year and has been a key contributor in all facets of the game, especially on special teams. When Myers was out, Sabres coach Ted Nolan gave some of his ice time to 2013 first-round picks Rasmus Ristolainen and Nikita Zadorov.
“It’s a huge factor when one of your top players is out of the lineup. It just shows you how much we really missed Tyler,” Nolan said. “He’s an anchor back there. He controls a lot of minutes. Even when he’s playing his off-game, his off-game is pretty good.”
Jhonas Enroth will start in net for Buffalo. Faceoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. with the Tops Gamenight pregame show beginning at 6:30 p.m. on MSG-B and Bell. Tuesday's game can also be heard live on WGR 550.
OTHER FRESH FACES
On Sunday, the Sabres recalled Tim Schaller and Philip Varone from the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League. They skated with the team Monday afternoon. Cody McCormick was absent from practice with a lower-body injury so Schaller took his place on a line with Nicolas Deslauriers and Patrick Kaleta. McCormick may be in depending on how he feels tomorrow.
“When things are going the way they are, you have to try to shake it up a little bit and get some new blood in and a new approach,” Nolan said. “As I’ve always mentioned on this team, we have good characters. Unfortunately things are going bad for us right now. We just have to find a way to get out of it.”
Varone skated between Cody Hodgson and Brian Flynn. Johan Larsson was sent back down to Rochester.
Varone is back with the Sabres for the first time his first time this season. He currently leads the Amerks in total points (29) and assists (21) through 35 games played. In four AHL seasons, he has amassed 177 points (48+129) in 242 games played.
Last season, he played with the Sabres for a nine-game stint, during which he recorded two points (1+1).
Varone said he isn’t as nervous as he was during that first call-up, but will try to match that eagerness.
“I’m going to treat it like it’s my first time, brining that enthusiasm,” he said. “I’ll just try to bring what I can to the table, some skill but most importantly, just work hard. It’s an audition every time you’re playing, whether it’s regular season, training camp or in Rochester. I’m just going to try and do what I can to try to make this a permanent home.”
Schaller scored his first NHL on Dec. 21 against Boston when he was up for a recall. He currently leads the Amerks in goals (10) and is tied for second on the team with 23 total points through 34 games played. He’s played four games for the Sabres so far this season.
26 Matt Moulson – 28 Zemgus Girgensons – 63 Tyler Ennis
21 Drew Stafford – 25 Mikhail Grigorenko – 80 Chris Stewart
19 Cody Hodgson – 84 Philip Varone – 65 Brian Flynn
44 Nicolas Deslauriers – 59 Tim Schaller – 36 Patrick Kaleta
4 Josh Gorges – 57 Tyler Myers
51 Nikita Zadorov – 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
6 Mike Weber – 24 Tyson Strachan
61 Andre Benoit – 41 Andrej Meszaros
1 Jhonas Enroth
34 Michal Neuvirth