Watching Sam Reinhart set a perfectly-timed screen on Saturday night, it was as if he hadn't missed a beat during his week away from training camp.
While the Buffalo Sabres did find areas to improve in their 3-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday, Reinhart was excellent in his preseason debut. He notched two assists, tallied a team-high six shots and set the screen that led to a power-play goal from Kyle Okposo in the first period.
"I thought he was one of our best forwards," Sabres coach Phil Housley said. "He looked very comfortable, he fit right in. He was on the puck, he was making plays. He was trying to make a difference tonight."
Video: Matthews scores in Leafs' 3-2 win against Sabres
It only took nine seconds on Buffalo's first power play of the night for Reinhart to establish himself at the net-front, the area where he's done the bulk of his damage through the first three seasons of his career. He took away Frederick Andersen's line of vision as Okposo shot to put the Sabres on the board 4:17 into the contest.
"I think the first period helped getting a couple power plays; I was able to feel the ice a little bit and get that part of it down and get some reps out there," Reinhart said. "I think it was a little bit more challenging in the second and third when the pace picked up on a five-on-five level and obviously the compete level.
"Overall I thought the legs handled it well and obviously I'm looking to feel better each day now."
By the end of the second period, Reinhart had been promoted to the top line alongside Jack Eichel and Jeff Skinner. The trio connected for a goal with 12.4 seconds remaining in that period, when Reinhart drove to the net and got off a shot in traffic and Skinner buried the rebound.
Video: TOR@BUF: Skinner scoops up the rebound and scores
The line continued to generate offense as they pushed to come back in the third. Skinner, Eichel and Reinhart combined for six shots during a period in which the Sabres outshot the Maple Leafs 14-7. They had multiple chances to erase a one-goal deficit, including a one-time chance for Skinner that went high from point-blank range.
It was a small sample size, but Reinhart said he could see the three building off that chemistry moving forward.
"I think every opportunity we get, we're motivated to embrace the challenge and create out there," he said. "I think we did create quite a few chances. It's early, but as we all get timing down I think [we can] focus on bearing down on some of them and sort that part of it out as well."
Video: POSTGAME: Reinhart
Auston Matthews and Jeremy Bracco scored second-period goals for Toronto, while Calle Rosen added a power-play goal that stood as the game-winner midway through the third. The Maple Leafs brought speed and tenacity throughout the night, at times forcing the Sabres into costly turnovers.
With the loss, the Sabres are 2-2-0 in the preseason with three games remaining.
"I mean, that's how Toronto always plays," Reinhart said. "I think we've got to match that a little bit better.
"A lot of these guys who have been out here for the last week and a half, two weeks, are certainly going to take advantage of their day off tomorrow and come back ready to compete and carry that pace again Monday."
The game also marked the preseason debut for defenseman Zach Bogosian, who has been eased into training camp after undergoing season-ending hip surgery in January. Bogosian tallied three shot attempts and two hits in 18:14.
"I feel good," he said. "I'm looking forward to having a day off tomorrow and trying to let the body rest and recover. Obviously, I haven't played a game in a while ... my body's feeling good, try to be as smart as possible about it."
Video: POSTGAME: Dahlin
We've become accustomed to Rasmus Dahlin playing with a poise beyond his years during his brief time in Buffalo, but Saturday served as a reminder that the 18-year-old will still sort through growing pains as he becomes accustomed to the NHL. Dahlin was forced into a pair of turnovers that led to breakaway chances for Matthews and Patrick Marleau in the first period.
The good news, Housley said, is that Dahlin reacted to those misfires the right way.
"He's a young man, he's going to make mistakes," Housley said. "I think one thing that's going to be one of the hardest things for him is just knowing who he's playing against and just the personnel on everybody's team and their characteristics.
"That's going to take some time, to get to know the players that he's playing against. But he's pretty cool and calm. We're going to have some growing pains at times, but I like that he still makes the plays though. He's not afraid. He's very confident in his abilities and we are too, so as he moves forward I think he'll learn from these things. He's a very smart hockey player."
A dangerous weapon
Video: POSTGAME: Housley
Hutton was strong in net for the second time this preseason, stopping 28 of 31 shots. He also introduced Buffalo to his puck-moving abilities, including an end-to-end pass from the net that hit Tage Thompson at the opposing blue line.
"He was excellent again tonight," Housley said. He really kept us in there, especially in the first period when they had some opportunities. But it's great that he can play the puck, I mean he's one of the best in the league. You could see he can break it out for us and we can get out on the attack. He is a dangerous weapon back there.
"I'm just glad that both games he's played he's settled in, he's made some key saves. Just where we thought he would be at this point."
The Sabres will travel to Clinton, N.Y. to face the Columbus Blue Jackets in the NHL's annual Kraft Hockeyville USA game. The game will be broadcast nationally on NBCSN, or you can listen live on WGR 550. Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m.