As they continue to search for more offense from their back end, the Sabres recalled defenseman Taylor Fedun on Thursday morning to join their lineup at home against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Fedun will replace Casey Nelson, who was reassigned to Rochester on Wednesday.
Fedun ranks third on the Amerks with 12 points (2+10) in 13 games and has been a consistent presence on their power play this season. He scored a goal, three assists and dropped the gloves in Rochester's win over Hartford on Nov. 11.
"He was due for a call-up after that," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said.
Video: Preview: BUF vs. TBL (11/17/16)
Bylsma used the word "smart" to describe Fedun multiple times, which is a fitting adjective for a guy who graduated with a mechanical engineering degree from Princeton, where he also once built a hovercraft. Fedun himself says that his intelligence and decision making is what makes him effective both at even strength and on the power play.
He'll be tested right away in Buffalo. Fedun practiced on the second power-play unit on Thursday morning and will play there against the Lightning.
"It's a lot of getting back to pucks and moving them quickly," Fedun said when asked about his offensive intangibles. "I'll jump through holes if they're available but I think first and foremost it's using the head on my shoulders and moving the puck."
Fedun has proven to be a quick learner. The majority of his training camp was limited to team meetings due to a foot injury that kept him off the ice, but he quickly assimilated to his new system in Rochester once the season began. He also has experience on his side, having scored 30-plus points in three of his four AHL seasons and seven points (2+5) in 12 NHL games over that span.
He'll be paired with another veteran in Justin Falk, who he played with to begin the season in Rochester.
"I think he brings a lot of experience to the table and even for someone like myself who's had a lot of years down there it's nice to know the guy to your left, he really calms things down back there," Fedun said of Falk. "He's been solid and nice to play with. It allows me to try and do a little bit more offensively knowing he's a rock back there."
Robin Lehner will start in net for the Sabres and will be opposed by Ben Bishop for the Lightning.
If you're unable to come down to KeyBank Center to watch the Sabres take on the Lightning and the League's leading scorer in Nikita Kucherov, you can tune into coverage beginning at 6:30 p.m. with the TOPS Pregame Show on MSG-B, or you can listen on WGR 550. The puck drops at 7 p.m.
Lightning playing without Stamkos
The Sabres are certainly no stranger to injuries this season, nor is their opponent on Thursday. Lightning captain Steven Stamkos, who ranks third in the League with 20 points (9+11) in 17 games, underwent surgery to repair a torn lateral meniscus in his right knee and is out indefinitely.
For as much as Stamkos means to their team, the Lightning has good reason to believe it can succeed without its star centerman. Tampa Bay lost Stamkos to blood clots prior to its playoff run last season but still rallied to make it to the Eastern Conference Final.
The good news for Tampa Bay is that 21-year-old forward Jonathan Drouin is expected to rejoin the lineup after missing seven games due to injury. He joins a Lightning lineup that still boasts plenty of talent, including one of the only two players in the League to score more points than Stamkos this season in Kucherov.
Kucherov has eight goals in 16 games this season and is tied with Winnipeg's Mark Scheifele for the NHL lead with 21 points.
"He's not the only one on their score sheet that has the speed and the skill," Bylsma said of Kucherov. "He has great agility, he has the type of agility and movement with the puck a Tyler Ennis type has where he's tough to nail down and he's tough to say, 'Hey, we're going to shadow this guy.' Great skill and speed but it's more his agility and movement with the puck side-to-side that makes him really tough to nail down."
9 Evander Kane - 23 Sam Reinhart - 21 Kyle Okposo
82 Marcus Foligno - 22 Johan Larsson - 12 Brian Gionta
71 Evan Rodrigues - 28 Zemgus Girgensons - 26 Matt Moulson
48 William Carrier - 27 Derek Grant - 73 Nicholas Baptiste
4 Josh Gorges - 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
29 Jake McCabe - 6 Cody Franson
41 Justin Falk - 38 Taylor Fedun
40 Robin Lehner
31 Anders Nilsson