COLUMBUS – The last time the Buffalo Sabres called up Chad Ruhwedel, he didn’t play in a game. However, he’ll be in Saturday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets when the two teams face off at Nationwide Arena at 7 p.m.
Ruhwedel was recalled from the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League after practice on Friday and made the trip to Columbus with the team. He’s looking forward to the opportunity to show the Sabres front office and coaching staff what he can do and said he received some good advice from Amerks captain Drew Bagnall before he left.
“He actually texted me saying, ‘Make sure you dance with the girl that brought you to the dance,’” Ruhwedel said after the team’s morning skate in Columbus. “So just do what you did that got you here and that’s why I’m here – from what I was doing in the American League and I’m just going to try to keep doing the exact same thing.”
Ruhwedel, 23, leads all Amerks defensemen with four goals and 17 points this season, his first full season as a pro. He played seven games with the Sabres last season and was primarily paired with Mike Weber.
Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan is hoping Ruhwedel’s ability to move the puck up ice quickly with a good first pass will help bolster the team’s defense and set up some offense.
“Today’s his day,” Nolan said. “One thing about him, he can skate and we need good puck-moving defensemen. Everybody looks for them. He’ll have his opportunity tonight.”
Nolan also said it’s possible that Ruhwedel could see some time on the power play.
The Sabres are also hoping to snap the Blue Jackets’ eight-game winning streak. The two teams met on Jan. 18 in Buffalo with Columbus coming out on top 4-3 in the shootout.
“Confidence is a wonderful thing, when you get on that roll and you believe you can win. Right now they’re on a good streak. They believe all stuff they’re doing is working,” Nolan said. “One thing I admired about them the last time playing them is their work ethic. They might be having some breaks and their confidence is good, but you have no confidence if you don’t work.”
Phil Varone will play in his second career game Saturday night. He made his NHL debut Thursday, played 10:36 and recorded an assist while centering a line that featured Marcus Foligno and Brian Flynn on the wings.
He said he’s feeling more comfortable now than he did on Thursday.
“Getting a game under your belt, a couple practices, you kind of get the feel a little bit of what you can do to incorporate your game into the NHL,” he said. “I feel good. I don’t feel the way I did two days ago, so hopefully that’ll translate on the ice.”
Ryan Miller is expected to start in goal. Captain Steve Ott and defenseman Christian Ehrhoff did not skate, but Nolan said they’ll play against Columbus. Center Tyler Ennis, who missed practice on Friday, will also be ready to go, according to Nolan.
Forwards Linus Omark and John Scott and defenseman Alexander Sulzer will be the team’s healthy scratches.