TAMPA, Fla. - Dan Bylsma has said throughout the young season that you’ll see more consistency in pairs of forwards than you will in three-man lines on his teams. One such pair thus far has been Ryan O’Reilly and Tyler Ennis, and at Friday’s practice Sam Reinhart became the latest forward to be tested alongside them.
Reinhart has been a part of the Sabres power play all season, and in Thursday’s loss to Florida he set the screen on Panthers goaltender Roberto Luongo that allowed Ennis to score with the man advantage. Against Tampa Bay, Reinhart will have the chance to bring that element to 5-on-5 play.
“Sam has had an opportunity to be at the net front, he took that in the Columbus game and he was again there last night. Regardless of how hard Tyler Ennis shot the puck or didn’t it wasn’t going in if it wasn’t for Sam being right in front of the goalie and that’s something other times in the game he did real well,” Bylsma said. “He’s going to get it not only on the power play, but he’s going to get some time there on the top line as well.
At 6-foot-1, Reinhart doesn’t have the prototypical size of a guy who plays in front of the net. But neither does Sabres captain Brian Gionta, and Bylsma said Friday that those are his two players who have done the best job in that position.
“There’s a willingness to go there and there’s a smarts to going there, and I think both of those guys showed both of those,” Bylsma said.
“I love that position,” Reinhart said. “But that being said, I don’t recall a time that I’ve ever played it … I’m comfortable there, the pucks going to go there eventually so I know that if I put myself in the right spots like I did last night, the puck’s going to find me.”
Reinhart came into the season after a camp that he admitted was up-and-down. But he feels that he’s grown more comfortable with each game in the regular season and his promotion to the top line is evidence that his coach agrees.
He called his game against the Lightning on Oct. 10 his best pro game to date. That day, he tallied an assist on Buffalo’s only goal. On Saturday, he’ll get a chance to do more damage against Tampa Bay alongside O’Reilly and Ennis.
“Obviously two great players, so I think you gain confidence from them,” he said. “I think if I just play my game, those guys are going to help.”
NO-GO FOR BOGO
After practicing with the team on Wednesday in a red non-contact jersey, defenseman Zach Bogosian traveled with the team to Florida with the hope that he could continue to participate in practices. That hasn’t panned out thus far, as Bogosian was absent from the Sabres’ morning skate on Thursday and was not on the ice for practice on Friday, either.
“A setback is not what I would call it,” Bylsma said. “He practiced, he was still in a red jersey, and [his] progression from there would be on how he reacted from being on the ice. He’s continuing to work out when it’s of the ice today and the previous day … his reaction to being on the ice was one that indicated we need to take more time.”
Bogosian is listed on injured reserve due to a lower-body injury that he sustained early in camp. He did not play in the preseason, and Bylsma said that the team has missed the physical presence and quality minutes that he brings to Buffalo’s defense.
“By taking out 25 minutes of ice time and 25 minutes of pretty much every area and every situation, you’ve taken out the top 25 minutes and they can’t really be replaced,” Bylsma said. “We’d like to see them replaced with what Zach brings, but that’s not what you’re asking.”
TOUGH BREAKS FOR KANE
Evander Kane hasn’t scored a goal through four games, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t had chances. He had a goal overturned in the team’s opener on Oct. 8 and has had several opportunities in front of the net since, including two on Thursday against Florida.
On one play, Kane was stuffed by Roberto Luongo, who was strong in net for the Panthers. On another, he just missed an opportunity to connect a well-executed pass from Jack Eichel. Eventually, those chances will start finding their way in if he keeps up his current play.
“I haven’t had the luck I guess since the disallowed goal,” he said. “There is a lot of hockey left to play; the good thing is that I am getting chances. I think I would probably be a little more concerned if I wasn’t. They’ll eventually start going in, hopefully that can start tomorrow.”
23 Sam Reinhart – 90 Ryan O’Reilly – 63 Tyler Ennis
9 Evander Kane – 15 Jack Eichel – 12 Brian Gionta
26 Matt Moulson – 28 Zemgus Girgensons – 82 Marcus Foligno
44 Nicolas Deslauriers – 22 Johan Larsson/17 David Legwand – 88 Jamie McGinn
Defensemen: 4 Josh Gorges, 55 Rasmus Ristolainen, 29 Jake McCabe, 3 Mark Pysyk, 6 Mike Weber, 46 Cody Franson, 25 Carlo Colaiacovo
31 Chad Johnson
50 Nathan Lieuwen