Brandon Montour smiled wide as he sat inside the KeyBank Center dressing room on Sunday, having just completed his first practice with teammates in more than a month.
"I felt like a hockey player again," Montour said. "It's been a while. It's good to be back and kind of get with the team and get that feel again."
The practice marked Montour's first skate with the team since he sustained a hand injury in Columbus on Sept. 17, the second game of the preseason. The defenseman had spent the summer rehabbing a knee injury that occurred during the IIHF World Championship in May.
The nature of this injury was different in that it allowed Montour to skate throughout his rehabilitation process, though his patience was tested. He estimated he was skating for three or four weeks with full gear and no stick.
"You can imagine how frustrating and how tough that was," he said. "But at least I can still skate and whatnot. An injury like this or what happened with [knee] surgery and stuff, it's all about patience and a matter of time before it gets full healed."
Montour's return came shortly after the Sabres announced they would be without defenseman Marco Scandella for an estimated two to three weeks. Scandella sustained his lower-body injury during the second period of the team's game at Madison Square Garden on Thursday.
John Gilmour made his Sabres debut in place of Scandella against Detroit on Friday, tallying two shots in 17:20. Shot attempts were in Buffalo's favor, 10-9, with Gilmour on the ice at 5-on-5.
Coach Ralph Kruger felt that Gilmour's performance after being scratched for the first 11 games was a testament to the Sabres' defensive depth.
"Our whole D corps has been outstanding," Krueger said. "It shows and speaks to the depth. You never want to test it, but when it happens you enjoy being able to see what's there. So, there's always something good and bad and that is the situation here.
"We get to see a little bit what our depth is quite early into the season. You have to feel comfortable when you see Johnny Gilmour step up and play a game like that."
Video: AFTER PRACTICE: Krueger
The Sabres added another reinforcement by recalling William Borgen from Rochester on Sunday morning. Borgen had previously been recalled Friday but spent Saturday playing in the Amerks' overtime victory in Syracuse.
As for Montour, the Sabres will focus on getting him up to speed in practice before placing him back in the lineup. The defenseman credited his skating and off-ice work with helping him stay prepared from a conditioning standpoint, though pace and timing are always an adjustment coming off injuries.
"He's been sitting in on all the meetings that we've had, so he's up to speed on all the adjustments we've made, corrections, what we see as learners and confirmers of how we want to play," Krueger said. "He's been a part of that. But it's still a lot different when you have to put it into action.
"It's day-to-day to see him get integrated here. We've got no timeline on the re-entry. It's the first day, once again, and we'll build on this."
Lines at practice
68 Victor Olofsson - 9 Jack Eichel - 23 Sam Reinhart
53 Jeff Skinner - 90 Marcus Johansson - 17 Vladimir Sobotka
71 Evan Rodrigues - 37 Casey Mittelstadt - 43 Conor Sheary
28 Zemgus Girgensons - 22 Johan Larsson - 21 Kyle Okposo
19 Jake McCabe - 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
58 John Gilmour - 33 Colin Miller
26 Rasmus Dahlin - 10 Henri Jokiharju
3 William Borgen - 62 Brandon Montour
40 Carter Hutton
35 Linus Ullmark