Chad Ruhwedel has been philosophical about his season. With eight defensemen in Buffalo for most of the year, Ruhwedel knew there was only one way out of Rochester and back to the NHL.
Work for it.
Ruhwedel, who finished last season with the Sabres, was one of the final cuts of training camp. He accepted his plight and waited for another chance, which finally came Friday when the Sabres recalled him to replace injured Carlo Colaiacovo.
“You could say it’s frustrating, but at the end of the day the guy beat you out for a spot in training camp and you’ve got to work your way up the rest of the season,” Ruhwedel said before facing Ottawa. “You’ve just got to keep your head down and get back to work.”
Ruhwedel’s work lately earned him the call. He has five goals and 12 points in the Amerks’ last 12 games, a run that started after he missed most of January with a wrist injury. He has eight goals and 22 points in 46 games overall.
“You always want to be part of the offense,” the 25-year-old said in First Niagara Center. “That’s a lot of fun. The team’s been playing well, so it’s been easier to get points and put up numbers. Ever since I was out with a wrist injury, things have been a little better.”
The Amerks are 8-3 in their last 11 games to climb within two points of a playoff spot. A big trade came midway through the run with forwards Alex Guptill, Eric O’Dell and Cole Schneider, and defenseman Michael Sdao coming from Binghamton. The quartet has combined for eight goals, 11 assists and 19 points in six games.
“They fit in really well with our team,” Ruhwedel said. “We’ve got a whole new look, it feels like. We traded away some big-name guys and got some big-name guys in return. The team’s got a new feel to it now, and it’s good.
“We’ve been having some success, and hopefully it keeps going.”
While Ruhwedel has enjoyed the run, he’s just fine with leaving it behind.
“Our team is playing really well down there and starting to get on a roll, but you can never say it’s too tough to leave and play in the NHL,” he said. “It’s always better to be up.”
Ruhwedel played alongside Mark Pysyk on the Sabres’ third defense pairing. He may be in the lineup again Saturday when the Sabres visit Toronto. Colaiacovo, however, won’t be out long with his lower-body injury.
Ruhwedel left Rochester with goaltender Nathan Lieuwen, who was called up to serve as Chad Johnson’s backup. Robin Lehner will sit out this weekend to rest an ankle injury.
Lieuwen dressed in five games for the Sabres in October but did not play. He is 14-10-1 with a .911 save percentage in Rochester. Lieuwen had a great January with a .938 save percentage, but he has since slipped to No. 2 behind Linus Ullmark.
“Anytime there’s a new challenge or something new, you’ve got to step up your game and you’ve got to be your best,” said Lieuwen, who missed most of last year with a concussion. “Obviously, I didn’t get a ton of offseason to get stronger, so throughout the season I’ve got a bit stronger and feel more solid on my feet.”