Walking through the hallway outside the dressing rooms at KeyBank Center Wednesday morning felt a bit like walking through a class reunion. Look one way, and you could find Marco Scandella and Jason Pominville catching up with members of the Minnesota Wild. Look the other, and there was Tyler Ennis and Marcus Foligno talking to their old Sabres teammates.
With pleasantries out of the way, all four players will set their friendships and memories aside when the Sabres and Wild meet for the first time this season on Wednesday night.
"We've got to keep the focus on what we have to do, but it is nice to see the guys," Pominville said. "Obviously good memories, a good group of guys. We went through a lot together so it was nice to have a chance to catch up with some of them."
Video: Preview: BUF vs MIN (11/22/17)
The Sabres acquired Pominville and Scandella in exchange for Ennis and Foligno back on June 30, a move made by general manager Jason Botterill primarily to bolster the team's defense.
Through 21 games this season, the pair has come as advertised. Scandella, for example, is averaging a career-high 23:43 of ice time and has picked up even more slack in the eight games since Rasmus Ristolainen sustained an upper-body injury on Nov. 2.
To paint a picture of what Scandella's meant to the team, Sabres coach Phil Housley looked back on the team's game in Pittsburgh on Nov. 14, a game he played in despite feeling under the weather.
"He wasn't feeling well, came to Pittsburgh and logged 27 minutes," Housley said. "He was throwing up after the first period. You can see what kind of a person he is and what he brings to our team."
Video: HOUSLEY Pregame Interview vs. MIN
Pominville, meanwhile, ranks fourth on the team with 13 points (6+7). Perhaps of equal importance, both players have aimed to bring what they learned off the ice in Minnesota. Pominville and Scandella both made the playoffs in each of the last five seasons as members of the Wild.
"Marco's got that where he comes in and he's going to be that positive guy and that upbeat guy," Sabres forward Sam Reinhart said. "Pommer, the respect he has from everyone in the room he just kind of naturally gets because he's been around and he's done so much in this league and in this locker room. They're two big, important pieces of this team."
The return to Buffalo for Ennis and Foligno will likely be emotional given their histories with the organization, having been the two longest-tenured Sabres at the time they were traded. Ennis played 419 regular season games for Buffalo and 13 more in the playoffs. Foligno played 347 games and was born in the area.
"It's been a whirlwind," Foligno said. "It's exciting to be back, obviously just to see the guys this morning. It brings back a lot of good memories ... It's good to be back. This was home for a long time. I'm excited and ready to get things going."
"You never forget where you came from with anything in life," Ennis added. "Buffalo gave me the opportunity to play in the NHL and I'm very thankful and grateful for that. It should be a special night."
Coverage on Wednesday begins at 6:30 p.m. with GMC Gamenight on MSG-B, or you can listen live on WGR 550. Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Bogosian, Ristolainen take the ice
Defensemen Zach Bogosian and Rasmus Ristolainen were both on the ice Wednesday morning, joining a small group of players that included fellow defensemen Matt Tennyson and Casey Nelson as well as forwards Kyle Criscuolo, Seth Griffith and Matt Moulson.
By no means was it considered a full practice, but it was a step forward for the injured defensemen nonetheless.
"It's just great to see a lot of guys out on the ice and getting closer," Housley said. "It would be good to see them in a really good practice. I thought they had a little bit of that today but it wasn't a full team. It's just really good to see the guys getting close."
Bogosian has been out since training camp with a lower-body injury, which he said he reaggravated during his initial attempt at a return. Although he said he feels like he's turned a corner, he added that it may take multiple practices for him to find his rhythm before returning to game action.
The injury was particularly ill-timed for Bogosian considering the excitement he displayed in the preseason and the feeling that his skillset would fit well into Housley's system.
"It's not an easy thing to do when you're that excited," Bogosian said. "I was feeling really good about my game. You try to be around the guys and be a good teammate that way, try to do your part to bring what you can to the team."
Ristolainen sustained his upper-body injury in Arizona on Nov. 2 and has missed the last eight games. He declared himself ready to play, but said it was up to the coaching staff as to when he actually returns to the lineup.
Video: Ristolainen on Injury Progress
"That's a day-to-day evaluation, but I know he's getting really close," Housley said. "We just want to be cautious. We don't want to throw him into a situation where he have short-term success versus long-term success. He's a really tough competitor and he wants to get back into the lineup, I understand that, but we have to be smart about it."
9 Evander Kane - 15 Jack Eichel - 29 Jason Pominville
67 Benoit Pouliot - 90 Ryan O'Reilly - 23 Sam Reinhart
28 Zemgus Girgensons - 22 Johan Larsson - 51 Kyle Criscuolo
17 Jordan Nolan - 10 Jacob Josefson - 21 Kyle Okposo
6 Marco Scandella - 41 Justin Falk
19 Jake McCabe - 93 Victor Antipin
4 Josh Gorges - 82 Nathan Beaulieu
40 Robin Lehner
31 Chad Johnson