The production has started to come for Brian Gionta.
The Buffalo Sabres captain is on a three-game point streak, while in his last six games he has six points (one goal, five assists) and a plus-5 rating.
But mention this to Gionta and he shrugs his shoulders.
“I mean, I think it’s nice to be rewarded, but I think our line since we’ve been together the last month or two, we’ve been playing well, doing our job,” Gionta said. “We’re matched up a lot of times against their top line I think, and have been doing a great job of countering what they’ve been attacking us with.”
Gionta’s line includes Johan Larsson and Marcus Foligno, and they hope to continue their string of offensive contributions when the Montreal Canadiens come to First Niagara Center for a 7 p.m. faceoff Wednesday. The trio has been put into the role of the defensive line and one of the best ways to keep the opposition from scoring is to keep the puck in their zone.
“I think it’s the consistency,” Gionta said about his line. “Whether it’s throughout the game or games as wholes. We’re putting good shifts back-to-back together. We’re getting good cycle time, good chances to the net. At the same time, when you’re playing against the top line, you’re keeping them out of the offensive zone. That’s what I like best.”
Sometimes, playing your role doesn’t show up on the score sheet. Gionta, now 37, has seen his goal production diminish in the last few seasons as his role has shifted. But the numbers, they’re not what motivate him.
“For sure, you want to contribute and add to it. But at the end of the day, it’s about what you’re doing for your team and what role you’re playing, what role you’re put in and fulfilling that role,” he said.
But to see Gionta get involved in offensive production is good for the team.
“I think it’s nice for our secondary scoring to see him get on the sheet,” coach Dan Bylsma said. “I think early, first 25 games of the season, we didn’t see that. He got injured coming out of training camp, unfortunately, kind of started up a little bit behind. Same thing on the score sheet. I don’t think he caught up to that until the last 25 games or so. That line now as a unit … Brian has gotten opportunities and scored and been a part of that line scoring. That’s one of the reasons you see that line stay together … because it has turned into a good, hard checking defensive line, but also one that can put the puck in the net.”
Bylsma wouldn’t go so far as to say Ryan O’Reilly would be in the lineup Wednesday as the Sabres host the Montreal Canadiens.
But it’s probably going to happen.
“He’s progressing in that direction,” was Bylsma’s answer.
“He responded well to (Monday’s) practice, which was an at-length practice and (he’s) back out there again, doing well.”
The Canadiens will likely still be without defenseman P.K. Subban. Reports out of Montreal had him missing Tuesday’s game at Florida and Wednesday’s game here after sustaining a neck injury in last week’s game against the Sabres in Bell Centre. Subban was at the Habs’ practice Monday but did not skate.
The Sabres will be selling St. Patrick’s Day-themed pucks Wednesday at First Niagara Center with all proceeds going to the Buffalo Sabres Foundation.
The special pucks, which are signed by Sabres players, will be sold for $20 in the 100 Level concourse prior to the 7 p.m. game.
In addition, the Sabres will wear green St. Patrick’s Day-themed jerseys during warmups for Wednesday’s game. The jerseys will be part of an online auction at auction.nhl.com through 9 p.m. March 27.