As the Sabres continue to search for the right fit to fill the final spot on their forward lines, yet another player is set to make his debut this weekend. Forward William Carrier earned his first career recall on Friday morning while Justin Bailey was reassigned to Rochester in a corresponding move.
It's been a long wait for Carrier, who scored a career-high 30 points (13+17) in 56 games with the Amerks last season before his campaign was cut short due to a broken hand. As he recovered, he watched his roommate, Evan Rodrigues, and Cole Schneider both earn their first recalls for the Sabres' final two games of the season.
He's had to be patient again this season. Hudson Fasching and Derek Grant claimed the final roster openings out of training camp, and Nicholas Baptiste and Bailey were the first two recalls when the Sabres lost more forwards to injury. Carrier has been happy for all of his teammates along the way, but he had an awfully big smile when speaking after practice on Friday.
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"You're always disappointed when you don't make the team out of training camp," Carrier said from his stall at KeyBank Center. "But I regrouped myself, went down there, practiced hard, had a good start and I'm back here."
Carrier has three goals and an assist in seven games for Rochester this season. He brings an element of physicality to the ice that Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said was missing in his limited preseason opportunities, but has returned in the early going for the Amerks.
"I don't think Will had a great preseason," Bylsma said. "I don't think Will got to display the kind of game he can play. That's a challenge in the preseason when you get one or two opportunities to do it. But what I like about his game is speed and tenacity. He's been a hard, physical guy and he's been a guy who's had a good presence at the net for Rochester the last two weeks."
If Carrier can find success on Buffalo's upcoming two-game road trip in Ottawa and Boston, he might earn himself a chance to stick around for a while. Sabres forwards Jack Eichel, Evander Kane and Nicolas Deslauriers are all week-to-week with injuries, while Fasching is currently day-to-day as he nurses a groin injury.
Carrier skated on the left wing on a line with Grant and Baptiste on Friday.
"I'm trying to go day-by-day here, not trying to think too far," Carrier said, still smiling. "Just trying to make an impression tomorrow."
Foligno shooting more often
At this time last year, Bylsma was pleading with Marcus Foligno to shoot the puck more often. Foligno only took six shots through his first 10 games of 2015-16 season and added just three more in the next 10.
Eventually, that message got through. Foligno went on to set a career high with 81 shots, 50 of which came from January on as he became more comfortable with linemates Brian Gionta and Johan Larsson. He's picked up on that pace this season with 13 shots in his first 10 games, and had seven shot attempts against Toronto on Thursday.
"When he gets off his game he tends to get away from it, and I think when he's on his game he has that shoot-first mentality and he's getting chances and shots like he did last night," Bylsma said. "When he's on his game, he not only has that shot mentality, but he's around the blue paint, taking the puck to the net."
Foligno scored his second goal of the season on a rebound on Thursday.
It's now been three weeks and one day since Kane went down with cracked ribs in Buffalo's season-opener against Montreal, and he's been making progress as of late. Bylsma said that Kane has been skating on his own but needs to continue to add physicality before he returns to full-contact practices.
"He's skated down four days, quite hard, quite extensively," Bylsma said. "He's added some physicality to it and he needs to continue to kind of add more of that to see how he's going to feel and react to the physicality."
Jack Eichel, meanwhile, is continuing to nurse his high-ankle sprain but was seen watching practice from the stands at KeyBank Center on Friday.
"He's been really quite good and quite patient about his recovery," Bylsma said. "He's been around every day. He's with the team every day. He's been at practice multiple times, sitting in the stands and watching, but he also understands he's got some time with this injury.
"I like seeing him in the stands, I like having him around. While he's being patient, I like how is focus is want to be back and wanting to be with the group."
26 Matt Moulson - 90 Ryan O'Reilly - 21 Kyle Okposo
82 Marcus Foligno - 22 Johan Larsson - 12 Brian Gionta
63 Tyler Ennis - 28 Zemgus Girgensons - 23 Sam Reinhart
48 William Carrier - 27 Derek Grant - 73 Nicholas Baptiste
4 Josh Gorges - 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
77 Dmitry Kulikov - 34 Casey Nelson
29 Jake McCabe - 6 Cody Franson
40 Robin Lehner
31 Anders Nilsson