NEWARK, N.J. – Ryan O’Reilly and Jack Eichel overcame whatever injuries they were dealing with to play Tuesday night against the New Jersey Devils. Brian Gionta didn’t take the morning skate while fighting off the flu but managed to stay in the lineup as well.
Justin Bailey made the trip to the Garden State on a just-in-case basis and sat out as a healthy scratch when all the question marks answered the call because he was on emergency recall.
But after a solid year in Rochester, Bailey certainly could get another chance in the NHL during the Sabres’ final two games this weekend when the team expects to add a couple of players from Rochester.
Bailey has 19 goals and 43 points for the Amerks on the season, 10th among AHL rookies in scoring. He’s been particularly strong of late, with 20 points in his last 16 games.
Bailey has no points in NHL games over two stints this year, but rang up 22 shots on goal and had several strong moments during games. He had seven shots during his NHL debut Feb. 11 in Philadelphia.
“Prior to his callup, he was consistently being one of the best forwards on the ice down in ‘Roch,’ ” said Sabres coach Dan Bylsma. “After his callup, I think he really moved his game, especially in the last 14 games or so, to another level in being a force in and around the net, in the slot area, on the power play there.”
Bailey, a Williamsville native who grew up in a condo complex with several Sabres stars of the ’90s, has no idea if he will play in Friday’s home finale against Columbus or Saturday’s game in Brooklyn against the New York Islanders. But he said he’s been thrilled by how things have gone in his first pro season.
“It’s been special,” Bailey said. “Coming into this season, the dream was definitely there to get called up but it’s been a reality three times now. Every time, it’s more special and I’m very appreciative and happy for it.”
Bailey spent the bulk of his time in Rochester playing with Tim Schaller and William Carrier, both of whom are currently injured. Bailey agreed with Bylsma’s notion that he’s been at his strongest in the AHL after making his second return from the NHL.
“It’s a lot more controlled up here but it definitely gave me a lot of confidence going back,” he said. “I found some good chemistry with Willie Carrier. Our team has been scoring more goals of late too.”
Bailey on St. Joe’s product Cole Schneider, who joined the Amerks in late February after the seven-player, minor-league trade with Ottawa: “He’s a very smart player. He seems to always make that one extra pass that’s usually the right pass. Cole and Eric O’Dell came together and had pretty good chemistry together.”
Schneider, 25, has 20 goals and 34 assists this season, combining his Binghamton and Rochester totals. He has three goals and 12 points in 15 games with the Amerks.
Devils coach John Hynes was Pittsburgh’s AHL coach at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton for the final four years Bylsma was the Penguins’ boss and said he’s not surprised at the way his former organizational leader has got the Sabres moving.
“He’s a very bright guy,” Hynes said here Tuesday. “He’s organized, he’s detailed, he has a clear plan of what he wants, how he wants the team to run, how he wants them to play. I think he’s a very good communicator. My experiences with Dan and relationship with him have always been very good. I’ve learned a lot from him and I have a tremendous amount of respect for him.”
For his part, Bylsma said Hynes certainly rates some coach of the year consideration. The Devils were considered by many to be preseason contenders for 30th place but were in a playoff spot into February until goaltender Cory Schneider missed 12 games in March
Said Bylsma: “What he’s been able to do with this team, how they’ve played and competed. It’s been one of the best jobs in the league.”
Former Sabres defenseman Brian Campbell played his 1,000th career NHL game Tuesday night in the Florida Panthers’ matchup in Montreal against the Canadiens. It was also Campbell’s 374th consecutive game with Florida, breaking Olli Jokinen’s team record. He has not missed a game in his five seasons with the Panthers.
Campbell played the first 391 games of his career with the Sabres from 1999-2008, when he was traded to San Jose. He stayed with the Sharks for just 20 games before signing with Chicago that summer and won a Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks in 2010.
Campbell, who turns 37 on May 23, is in the final season of the eight-year, $57.1 million contract he signed with Chicago in 2008. He has told South Florida reporters he wants to return and Panthers General Manager Dale Tallon has said he’s interested in talking to Campbell about a new deal.