Following Buffalo's 2-1 shootout defeat to Nashville on Sunday, the club returned to the First Niagara Center on Monday morning for a team meeting and an optional skate.
As the team attempted to regroup ahead of their afternoon flight to Columbus, many of the club’s younger players hit the ice with the hopes of shaking out some of the previous night’s aches and pains. One of those players was defenseman Mark Pysyk.
Pysyk, who was recalled along with fellow defenseman Jake McCabe prior to Sunday’s tilt with the Predators, impressed in his first game back with the big club.
“I thought he played a real strong, solid game last night,” Sabres head coach Ted Nolan said. “He seems like he’s really ready to be up here.”
Although he was admittedly a little nervous upon his return to Buffalo, Pysyk was also pleased with his own performance.
“It’s good if I don’t look nervous because I definitely was,” Pysyk said. “I tried to play simple and not do too much. I thought things went well. We should’ve had the two points, but they got a lucky bounce there at the end.”
In the coming weeks, Pysyk could have an opportunity to carve out a role on the backend. Injuries to Josh Gorges (season-ending lower body injury), Mike Weber (out two weeks with an upper body injury) and Tyson Strachan (day-to-day) leaves spots to be filled in the Sabres defensive group. Pysyk hopes that he shows enough during his time with the Sabres to earn an extended look at the NHL level.
“I just want to play simple and limit my mistakes,” Pysyk said. “I don’t want to give them any reasons to send me back down.”
The former first-round pick in 2010 (23rd overall) has one goal in 5 games with the Sabres so far this year. In 50 games with Rochester, Pysyk has three goals and 13 assists.
After missing Sunday’s game for violating a team rule (late to a team meeting), Nikita Zadorov expressed his regret regarding the events that led to his absence.
“I feel sorry that it happened. It was 100 percent my mistake, no excuses, I can’t do that,” Zadorov said. “I spoke with the team and said ‘I’m sorry boys, and I don’t want to lose your trust.’ It’s all about the team, and I just want to get back as soon as I can and help my team.”
During an appearance on Hockey Hotline this morning, Sabres general manager Tim Murray also spoke of his hopes that the rookie can learn from the situation and move on.
“I had a talk with Nikita this morning. Well, I did all the talking and he didn’t talk,” Murray said. “Hopefully the problem is rectified and we can move forward.”
As it stands now, Zadorov might have to wait before returning to the lineup. Although he’s expected to travel with the team, Nolan said he was happy with how his defenders played against Nashville.
“The defense last game I thought played pretty well, so we won’t be making a change just to make a change.”
While the Sabres have recorded only one win during their last five games, it hasn’t been because of subpar goaltending.
Over the last five games, Sabres goaltender Michal Neuvirth has made 175 saves on 184 shots (.951 save%), which includes 37 saves on 38 shots against Nashville. Despite that personal success, the 26-year-old is quick to attribute his good form to those around him.
“The guys are working really hard for me and our penalty kill has been outstanding lately,” Neuvirth said. “We are giving everything we have each night and I’m proud of that.”
Neuvirth will look to extend his hot streak against Columbus on Tuesday, and as of now, his coach will turn to him more often than not.
“He’s been playing great these last five games,” Nolan said. “We’re going to ride that horse until we see some tiredness come in.”