The Sabres' postseason chances are over, but their minor-league club still has a pulse. It quickened Friday when the Amerks learned reinforcements were on their way.
Shortly after rookies Marcus Foligno and Corey Tropp finished an hourlong practice with Buffalo, General Manager Darcy Regier pulled them aside and told them they were going back to the Amerks. The duo was scheduled to leave Boston on Friday evening and join Rochester in time for tonight's road game in Hamilton.
The Amerks could use the help. They entered Friday's games in 11th place, but they were just two points back of seventh-place Charlotte with one extra game played. Rochester has five games left.
Foligno and Tropp rejoin the Amerks as bona fide NHL players. Foligno had six goals and 13 points in his final 13 games with Buffalo while proving to be a physical force. Tropp played 35 games with the Sabres, scoring three times as part of an eight-point showing.
Rookie defensemen T.J. Brennan and Brayden McNabb are also expected to rejoin the Amerks, but the Sabres need them to fill out their blue line today in the season finale against Boston.
Brennan spent Friday coming down from a wild Thursday.
He took a stick to the lip from one of the coaches during the morning skate and spent part of his afternoon getting stitched up. Scheduled to be a healthy scratch for the 7 p.m. game against Philadelphia, he learned at 6:15 p.m. that defenseman Alexander Sulzer was heading home to Nashville for a personal emergency. Brennan quickly rushed to the dressing room to get ready.
While he did, the Philadelphia-area native had to let friends and family members know he was playing. His father was on his way to the game and joined a few others in watching Brennan visit the hometown Flyers for the first time.
"It was pretty cool playing a regular-season game there," Brennan said in Agganis Arena at Boston University. "There were a lot of external pressures there. It was a must-win for us, but it was a little different situation for myself. I got a late call. They told me I was in, so I just tried to come in and play as simple and as best as I could, help the team out.
"The legs were burning a little bit. I didn't play too much, but I just tried to give the guys a break out there, just come in and do my part."
Brennan played 10:17, had two hits and missed a shot from the slot.
"I had a bunch of family and stuff there, which was great," he said. "It was great for them to see me, but obviously it's a frustrating game for me. I wanted to get out there a little more and help the team out, I guess. It would've been a little better if we'd won. It's a little bittersweet."
The Sabres have missed the playoffs three times in five seasons, and all three times they closed with a game against the Bruins.
The 2007-08 club finished the year with a 3-0 victory in Boston. Goaltender Jocelyn Thibault recorded a shutout in the final start of his career, while left wing Thomas Vanek had a hat trick to provide all the offense. Defenseman Teppo Numminen returned to the lineup for his only game after having a heart procedure the previous fall.
The 2008-09 edition also trounced the Bruins, storming to a 6-1 victory in Buffalo. Vanek scored twice to reach the 40-goal mark. Backup goalie Mikael Tellqvist stopped 34 of 35 shots.
No. 2 netminder Jhonas Enroth is likely to start today in TD Garden, but Jochen Hecht will not make a Numminen-like return from injury. The concussion-battling forward said he has not been cleared to play.
Coach Lindy Ruff expects the rest of the team to put forth a winning effort.
"You're a professional," Vanek said. "Obviously, it's hard, but come game day you focus. Everyone in here is a competitor, and you go out, do your best for 60 minutes, win a game and that's it."