When he was initially traded to the Buffalo Sabres in June, Jamie McGinn had no idea that one of his best friends on the Colorado Avalanche had been traded with him.
He picked up the phone as soon as he found out that Ryan O'Reilly was a part of the package.
“We actually saw it on the TV,” he said. “We called each other right away because he didn’t know either. I could just feel the excitement in his voice and I knew how excited I was to come with Ryan.
“We were great friends in Colorado since day one so to do it with one of your best buddies on the team, that’s so rare.”
Six months later, the two friends are excelling not only as teammates, but as linemates. Both players scored in Buffalo’s 2-1 overtime win against Los Angeles on Saturday and both are in the midst of productive stretches offensively.
McGinn scored on the power play for his eighth point in eight games (3+5), a span in which he has played on three different lines. He joined the top line with O’Reilly and Sam Reinhart in the third period against Vancouver on Monday.
It was the first time the two former Avs played on the same line, McGinn said, since the 2013-14 season. They played alongside Matt Duchene at times that season and McGinn thought they clicked well.
After a few games together in Buffalo, O’Reilly seems to agree.
“That was one of the best things about that trade – was getting to go with one of my closest friends,” O’Reilly said. “Getting to play together was great and when we can find success too with it and contribute to win hockey games, it’s awesome.”
It’s the same qualities that made McGinn so easy to get along with off the ice, O’Reilly said, that makes him able to succeed regardless of whom he plays with.
“Everyone on the team loves him,” he said. “Everyone, they want to play with him and he’s easy to play with. He’s easy to talk to. He doesn’t get frustrated with you. If you make a mistake he’s always there to support you.”
O’Reilly, meanwhile, is riding a seven-game point streak during which he has compiled 10 points on three goals and seven assists. He too has had a variety of wingers on his line, but it hasn’t stopped him from leading the team with 27 points this season (10+17).
“He’s an easy guy to play with, he sees the ice so well and does the small things as well, but he’s good with the stick,” McGinn said. “I know [when I’m] playing with him, just keep the stick down and he’s going to find me or get the puck to the net.”
If O’Reilly’s talent was overshadowed at all in Colorado, it’s shined brightly as he’s continued to excel in a leadership role in his first year as a Sabre.
“It’s being put on his shoulders right now and he’s doing the job,” McGinn said. “I’ve been watching him for four or five years now and I’ve seen it every day now.”
THEY’VE GOT THE POWER
With McGinn’s power-play goal in the first period on Saturday, the Sabres improved to 8-for-23 (34.8 percent) with the extra man in their last seven games. When asked what has made the difference, O’Reilly mentioned one player in particular who’s begun to excel with the man advantage.
“If you work hard and have a shooting mentality some things are going to open up, and I think a key guy for us has been [defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen],” he said. “He knows how to get shots through, he’s got a heavy shot and he’s smart, makes great plays. He’s been a big spark for us there.”
Ristolainen’s assist on McGinn’s goal gave him 17 points in his last 17 games, six of which have come on the power play. Two of the defenseman’s three goals in the third period against Calgary on Thursday night came on the power play.
Defenseman Jake McCabe was absent from practice Sunday at HARBORCENTER for a maintenance day, Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. Forward Tyler Ennis (upper body) and goaltender Robin Lehner (ankle) did not participate in practice but skated on their own. Both Ennis and Lehner are still a ways away from returning to action.
Here’s how the lines stacked up:
88 Jamie McGinn – 90 Ryan O’Reilly – 23 Sam Reinhart
9 Evander Kane – 15 Jack Eichel – 26 Matt Moulson
28 Zemgus Girgensons – 22 Johan Larsson – 12 Brian Gionta
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
6 Mike Weber – 46 Cody Franson
The Sabres will play in Detroit on Monday and Bylsma expects McCabe to be ready for it. Pregame coverage begins at 7 p.m. on MSG-B and Bell TV. The game can also be heard live on WGR 550 with puck drop slated for 7:30 p.m.