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Sabres notebook: Catenacci heads to doghouse, then to NHL

BOSTON – It started like any other Friday in Rochester for Dan Catenacci. The Amerks were reviewing video, the session ended and coach Randy Cunneyworth called Catenacci back to the video room to look at more clips. And things initially got harsh.

“The coaches called me in and started yelling at me,” Catenacci recalled Saturday in TD Garden. “They’re telling me, ‘Why did you let this turnover happen?’ ”

But Catenacci noticed something was fishy with Cunneyworth.

“He was cracking a smirk so I knew something was up but he started yelling at me pretty good,” Catenacci recalled. “He said, ‘Get the hell out of my office.’ Then I turn around, he grabs me and starts smiling and says, You’re going up.’ That was it.

“We had talked about the play already so I thought, ‘Where is this coming from?’ I was kind of speechless. He told me the news and I was very excited.”

The news was that Marcus Foligno was out and Catenacci had to get to Boston. After three AHL seasons totaling 180 games, the 22-year-old made his NHL debut for the Buffalo Sabres here Saturday against the Boston Bruins.

Catenacci had seven goals and nine assists in 36 games for the Amerks but had nine points in his last 10 games and caught the eye of Dan Bylsma when the Sabres’ coach was in town to watch games last week during the NHL All-Star break.

Catenacci, a third-round pick in 2011, appeared in one NHL preseason game for the Sabres in September. He said he had not given up hope of hearing from the big club at some point.

“You’ve got to always have hope, right? You have to keep working hard,” he said. “I felt last year I took a lot of strides working towards a call-up. This year I started off a little slow but I’ve picked it up as of late.”

The Sabres have several players making big money for the AHL in Rochester but Catenacci got the call based on his recent play.

“We’ve said that to our players all along. You earn the opportunity to come up and play,” Bylsma said. “To me, there’s no question me watching him last week and the reports” from Cunneyworth and staff “is Dan has been one of the best, if not the best, at his game the last 10 or so games and earned the right to come up here.”

Catenacci had career highs of 15 goals and 29 points last year in Rochester and his pro career has gone through an evolution after he put together back-to-back 30-goal seasons for Owen Sound of the OHL.

“When I was drafted I was more of an offensive player,” said Catenaaci. “Since then, I’ve really worked on faceoffs and my D-side of the game. Now I see myself as a two-way player. ... whether it’s 5-on-5, PP or PK. I just want to make the best of every shift.”

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For his second time playing an NHL game in his hometown, the pregame media mob for Jack Eichel was appreciably smaller than it was for his Dec. 26 debut here. The topic Saturday was mostly about Monday’s championship game of the Beanpot tournament between Eichel’s former club, Boston University, and Boston College.

Eichel, who met some of his old teammates here Friday night, helped the Terriers to the title last year in his lone appearance and considers it one of the most important achievements of his career. The BU players paraded the trophy around town last year, keeping it on the sidelines during a pickup basketball game on campus, and Eichel even ate Cap’n Crunch cereal out of it.

Eichel started Saturday’s game with Nicolas Deslauriers and Zemgus Girgensons. The Sabres started Deslauriers and Boston countered with tough guy Zac Rinaldo but there was no outburst. Matt Moulson joined the line after that shift.

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There was big news out of St. Louis on Saturday as former Sabres winger Thomas Vanek was made a healthy scratch by the Minnesota Wild, his first time in the press box not due to injury since the 2006 playoffs with the Sabres.

Vanek is tied for second on the team with 14 goals and is third with 29 points, but his numbers have been brutal of late. He has just one assist in the last eight games and only five points in the last 21. Vanek is in the second year of his three-year, $19.5 million contract with the Wild signed in 2014.

“Obviously, not happy about it,” Vanek told Minnesota reporters Saturday in Scottrade Center. “I think any competitor wants to play, and, that’s just it, just play, but there’s no time for me or this team to pout around … about it. You’ve just got to respect it and wait until you get back in there and play better.”

The Wild has slipped into desperation mode with a 1-8-1 record in its last 10 games and General Manager Chuck Fletcher gave coach Mike Yeo a vote of confidence on Saturday.

“We need to win, so if he thinks by taking me out it’s a better lineup, I’ve got to respect that, work hard and make sure I get back in there and prove him wrong,” Vanek said. “We’re losing games, things need to change and tonight I’m the change. This is a game of confidence. I didn’t just all of a sudden forget how to play the game. ... If you don’t produce, you’re out.”

email: mharrington@buffnews.com

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