The Rochester Americans will receive a boost to their defensive corps.
Mark Pysyk and Jake McCabe skated with the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday at First Niagara Center as they both return from injuries and after practice, both were assigned to the Amerks of the American Hockey League.
Pysyk has been out since Sept. 23 when he injured his shoulder during the first shift of his first preseason game. He’s been skating on his own but has only been on the ice with the team again for the past few days.
He’s worked hard to get back, but has missed a significant amount of time because of the injury, which has hurt his chances of sticking with the Sabres in the short-term.
“It’s tough to be here sitting, watching and having no real chance of proving yourself,” he said before he got word from general manager Tim Murray that he’d be joining the Amerks.
Pysyk played 44 games with the Sabres last season, recording one goal and six assists.
McCabe had been dealing with a lingering injury since the prospects tournament in Traverse City in early September. It hadn’t really improved over the course of training camp so the team made the decision to get him completely healthy.
The 21-year-old rookie from the University of Wisconsin hadn’t been a participant in practice since Oct. 6. Getting his conditioning back up is now a top priority.
He played in three preseason games and scored twice. He believes he left a strong impression on the coaching staff.
“I thought I had a good camp. I thought I made their decision tougher,” he said after practice. “That’s what they wanted us to do is come in, be in the best shape of your life and compete and make their job difficult. For the most part, I did that.”
Rochester’s next game is on the road against the Toronto Marlies at 3 p.m. on Saturday.
The Sabres have eight defensemen on the active roster including 19-year-old Nikita Zadorov. He hasn’t dressed for a game this season.
He is eligible to play in nine games before the team must decide if they want to keep him in the NHL for the entire season and have his contract kick in or return him to his Ontario Hockey League club in London.
“We’re trying to do our best with the situation and we’ll keep working at him, get his conditioning a little better,” Sabres coach Ted Nolan said. “He’s another promising young prospect that we have to make sure we do the best for him. Right now we’re working him as hard as we can in practice, make him a little angry, making him want to make us play him now.”
They’ll have a similar decision to make with 2014 first-round pick Sam Reinhart soon. Reinhart has played in all four games so far this year. He skated on scoring lines with wings like Marcus Foligno, Chris Stewart, Brian Gionta and Cody Hodgson, but the coaching staff had him play in a limited role Tuesday night against the Hurricanes.
Reinhart only played 6:39 in Carolina but Nolan said he’ll likely see increased playing time on Friday against the Florida Panthers.
“Sometimes you play kids and you put them right in the fire and see how they react. We put him with some pretty good lines at the beginning, giving him lots of minutes. Now it’s a different approach, cutting back on the minutes, let him watch game action more,” Nolan said.
WAITING FOR THE GREEN LIGHT
Patrick Kaleta was also back at practice for the first time since sustaining a scary injury.
He caught a slap shot in the face the team’s preseason game in Toronto on Sept. 28 and needed three plates and 14 screws inserted to repair the damage.
Kaleta wore a full-face shield and a red jersey in practice, signaling he’s not ready yet for contact.
“I’m blessed and lucky that my eyesight is good, knock on wood, so far,” he said. “Everything else was crushed, I guess.”
He thanked his family, friends, teammates and the training and medical staff for their help and support while he recovers. He said pretty much everything he’s eaten has had to be in milkshake form.
The hard-nosed wing has been working his way back from a knee injury sustained last November that ended his season. He’s really itching to get back after this latest setback.
“Once I get the green light, I’m ready to go whether my face is broken or not,” he said.
THURSDAY’S PRACTICE GROUP
26 Matt Moulson – 63 Tyler Ennis – 21 Drew Stafford
82 Marcus Foligno – 19 Cody Hodgson – 80 Chris Stewart
17 Torrey Mitchell – 28 Zemgus Girgensons – 12 Brian Gionta
44 Nicolas Deslauriers – 23 Sam Reinhart – 8 Cody McCormick – 65 Brian Flynn
36 Patrick Kaleta (red, non-contact jersey)
4 Josh Gorges – 57 Tyler Myers
6 Mike Weber – 41 Andrej Meszaros
61 Andre Benoit – 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
51 Nikita Zadorov – 24 Tyson Strachan
29 Jake McCabe – 3 Mark Pysyk
1 Jhonas Enroth
34 Michal Neuvirth
SPECIAL TEAMS CHANGES
After sitting out Tuesday as a healthy scratch, Andrej Meszaros will be back in the lineup against Florida, according to Nolan. Meszaros also practiced with the second power-play unit Thursday morning.
The team tried a new look with the man advantage in practice. Cody Hodgson, who had been a forward on the second unit, moved up to the first unit to play the left point. Nolan hopes having him there will provide more structure and allow Hodgson to more effectively use his shot.
Power Play Units