John Scott started the game at defense and moved to forward when the already thin Buffalo Sabres lineup lost forward Drew Stafford to a game misconduct.
By the third period, Scott was on the power play complete with several near-misses on tip-ins and deflections in front of the net.
It was probably the most fun Scott has had in a game in a long time. And his ability to play different roles helped the Sabres plug holes en route to a 2-1 overtime win over the Phoenix Coyotes at First Niagara Center Monday night.
Scott, who normally plays on the fourth line and rarely in the third period, had been a healthy scratch for the last three games. With the Sabres lineup decimated by the flu, Scott started the game at defense. He slid back into his forward role when Stafford was ejected for an elbowing call midway through the second period.
“I’ve done that a few times in my career but it’s been a while,” Soctt said of changing positions mid-game. “It was nice to fill some voids we had and go out there and play actually kinda good. ... It’s just one thing you deal with. It’s the same game. You know how to play every position and I played D for a while so it wasn’t that hard.”
Scott finished with 8 minutes and 50 seconds of ice time - his most of the season - including 1:45 of power play time in the third period.
Scott couldn’t remember the last time he was out for a power play and he was sure to seize his opportunity given by interim coach Ted Nolan.
“Ted just gave me the tap on the back and I wasn’t going to look back,” Scott said. “I jumped over the boards so fast. It was good.”
For his part, Nolan seemed to feel at ease moving Scott around as needed.
“People think he’s just a big slugger but he’s highly intelligent,” Nolan said of Scott. “He knows the game. You see him on the power play, he had that net-front presence, he grabbed the puck, he knew what to do with it. To go from defense up to forward, you have to have some intelligence in order to do that. He played great.”
Parked in front of the net on the power play, Scott had a few chances to score, but he is still looking for his first goal in 164 games. His last goal came on Nov. 15, 2009 against Carolina.
“It’s frustrating,” Scott said. “I thought I had it with that backhand rebound and a couple tip shots but it’s coming, it’s coming.”
Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith held off a Sabres surge as long as he could, but his 30 saves weren’t enough to help Phoenix win. Smith wasn’t too pleased with his team’s overall performance.
“That was embarrassing as far as I’m concerned,” he said. “You go on a Christmas break, you have three days off and you come out like that? I think that’s a bunch of garbage as far as far as I’m concerned.
“You could tell they were a short lineup, they didn’t want to make a mistake and we played right into that.”
It was a homecoming for South Buffalo’s Tim Kennedy and while his Phoenix team took the loss, he broke out of a scoring slump.
His assist on Martin Hanzal’s goal in the second period broke a 10-game pointless streak. That may help Kennedy make his case for sticking around with the Coyotes.
Monday’s game was the 15th straight for Kennedy with the Coyotes since he was recalled from Portland Nov. 21. And the key for Kennedy, who ahs a two-way contract with the Coyotes, was taking his AHL assignments with the right attitude.
“I didn’t have the greatest camp in the world by any means,” Kennedy said. “So I went to Portland, kept working hard and got called up three times. It seems I’ve stuck this team and I have to keep working because I’m happy to be here.
“You never went to get sent own out of camp but going through what I have the last few years you know it’s a possibility and when you’re on a certain contract you know it’s a big possibility. You just have to prepare for all that. When you get sent down, you have to have the best attitude. You can’t complain. That doesn’t do you any good. Just show them you want to be back.”
Kennedy is on his eighth pro team since the Sabres put him on waivers then bought out his contract in 2010. He played last year with the San Jose Sharks, but signed with Phoenix where he hoped he’d have a better chance of being on an NHL roster. He hasn’t been a big league regular since he played 76 games as rookie with the Sabres in 2009-10.
“They had a pretty deep roster and I didn’t like my chances starting there, playing the whole year there so you look at what was open in free agency and I thought they were my best opportunity,” Kennedy said of the move from San Jose to Phoenix.
Kennedy is making the most of his currently opportunity, playing left wing on the Coyote’s top line with Radim Vrbata and Hanzal and Phoenix coach Dave Tippett likes what he’s been getting from Kennedy.
“He was a player we signed to go back and forth as a depth player but he came in here and played really well. He earned a spot and found a little niche with Hanzal and Vrbata. He’s got skill, he’s a good skater and he’s fearless getting to loose pucks and getting to the front of the net so we tried him on that line, it seemed to click.”
Defenseman Mark Pysyk and forward Johan Larsson were recalled from the Rochester Americans Monday morning with defenseman Chad Ruhwedel assigned to the Amerks and Kevin Porter going to injured reserve with a lower-body injury suffered in Saturday’s loss at Boston.
Those were the last moves with Rochester as the Amerks left for Switzerland to participate in the Spengler Cup.
Pysyk wasn’t sure if he was going to the international competition or not.
“They said they weren’t sure about Switzerland,” he said. “I didn’t really know what the plan was. I was ready to go and I was ready to come back here.”
“When you try to build a contending team and a playoff team, you don’t just give positions to people,” Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan said. “We want to make sure everybody in this organization starts earning their keep and develop properly. Mark is a great young player but in a lot of organizations he probably wouldn’t be playing at this age. So we’ll make sure he matures a little bit more because he’s going to be a good NHL player.”
The Sabres have won three straight home games for the first time since they won five in a row from Feb. 19 to March 12, 2012. ... Ryan Miller improved to 5-0-0 in five career starts against the Coyotes, with a .966 save percentage and a 0.98 goals against average.