While the rest of his teammates prepared for the start of training camp last Thursday, Sam Reinhart was catching a flight to Vancouver. What followed, he said, was about as challenging a week as he's had in hockey.
Reinhart continued to skate in his hometown until Wednesday, when he and the Sabres agreed to a two-year deal with an average annual value of $3.65 million. He was already booking flights back to Buffalo on Tuesday night, and he was all smiles following his first practice with the team on Thursday.
"I think my dad's probably the happiest guy to get me out of the house again," Reinhart said. "I was pretty miserable for a couple of days but was able to stay on the ice and train back in Vancouver, and ultimately that's why I went home.
"… At the time it probably seemed like two years being away, but now it seems like two days. I'm thrilled to be back."
Reinhart made it a point to arrive in Buffalo ahead of camp in August, as he would for any other season. Having been a part of informal sessions with his teammates during that time proved to be invaluable. He didn't feel like he was playing catchup on Thursday, instead comparing the absence to one caused by a minor injury.
"Looking back at it, I think the best thing I did was coming early and being around the guys because now it just feels like I missed a few days and I'm right back with the team," he said.
Coming to Buffalo also showed Reinhart's commitment toward remaining Sabre, which general manager Jason Botterill said was apparent throughout negotiations. While the process may have taken longer than either side would have liked, Botterill said communications never broke down.
"I think both sides understand at the end of the day we all wanted Sam a part of our group here," he said. "Sometimes it takes a little longer to go through the entire process. But from day one, it's been evident Sam wants to be part of our solution here in Buffalo.
"Today was a great day to see him back on the ice. It's not just with his words, it's with his actions. He came to Buffalo before camp here, interacted with our guys, interacted with our staff throughout the summer."
Sabres coach Phil Housley was intrigued to see how Reinhart would respond to an intense practice session less than 24 hours after traveling coast-to-coast, but the adrenaline of finally being back with the team was apparent in his pace and execution.
"I think today was a great practice for me to come back in," Reinhart said. "It wasn't crazy by any means, but the pace was up. I felt comfortable. Obviously, it's going to take a day or two, but I'm happy with how it went. I'm happy with how I feel out there."
Reinhart practiced on a line with Patrik Berglund and Evan Rodrigues, and Housley left the door open for him to potentially make his preseason debut when the Sabres host Toronto on Saturday.
"Maybe we can look at that game," Housley said. "But if he's not up to speed and he doesn't feel comfortable, we're not going to put him in a position not to succeed."
When he does play, Reinhart will be looking to pick up where he left off last season, which ended with the most productive stretch of his young career. He scored 37 points (18+19) in his final 38 games, overcoming a slow start to finish with career-highs in goals (25) and points (50).
"I know the player I can be, I know how I was able to turn things around," he said. "I think just keeping that confidence, just keeping that self-belief goes a long way in my game. I think it was important for me to get back as soon as possible because training camp is a really important time to get that."
Bogosian returns to practice
Reinhart wasn't the only notable player back on the ice on Thursday. Zach Bogosian practiced with the team for the first time since last Sunday, returning to a defensive pair with Nathan Beaulieu. His absence was part of a calculated plan to ease the defenseman into camp after undergoing hip surgery in January.
"It was good," Bogosian said. "Obviously coming back from a major surgery, you're trying to check off all the boxes. Just precautionary stuff, just trying to make sure everything's going as smooth as possible. It felt good."
Bogosian was a full participant in the 90-minute session, which concluded with a 2-on-2 battle drill.
"We're going to have to evaluate after and see what the trainers and our doctors say, but I thought he looked really good in the practices and in the bump and grind of it too," Housley said. "He was physical. It's one of those scenarios where we're just going to be cautious with it and evaluate it every day."
Lines at practice
The Sabres will play a home-and-home set against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Friday and Saturday, and Housley said the game groups will likely resemble the groups we saw at practice on Thursday.
Here's what those groups looked like.
92 Alexander Nylander - 37 Casey Mittelstadt - 72 Tage Thompson
28 Zemgus Girgensons - 17 Vladimir Sobotka - 52 Andrew Oglevie
49 C.J. Smith - 12 Kevin Porter - 13 Nicholas Baptiste
41 Victor Olofsson - 74 Rasmus Asplund - 46 Eric Cornel / 77 Vasily Glotov
45 Brendan Guhle - 8 Casey Nelson
24 Lawrence Pilut - 5 Matt Tennyson
44 Brandon Hickey - 38 Zach Redmond
61 Devante Stephens - 27 Taylor Fedun
35 Linus Ullmark
32 Adam Wilcox
34 Jonas Johansson
53 Jeff Skinner - 9 Jack Eichel - 29 Jason Pominville
71 Evan Rodrigues - 10 Patrik Berglund - 23 Sam Reinhart
95 Justin Bailey - 22 Johan Larsson - 21 Kyle Okposo
20 Scott Wilson -51 Kyle Criscuolo - 65 Danny O'Regan / 64 Tyler Randell
6 Marco Scandella - 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
26 Rasmus Dahlin - 19 Jake McCabe
82 Nathan Beaulieu - 4 Zach Bogosian
33 William Borgen
40 Carter Hutton
31 Scott Wedgewood
50 Michael Houser
The games on Friday and Saturday can both be seen on MSG-B, and tickets for Saturday's home game are on sale now.