ST. LOUIS -- It was two nondescript games in April, games 81 and 82 of the Buffalo Sabres' 2015-16 schedule. There was probably plenty of playing-out-the-string feelings that weekend but not for Evan Rodrigues.
The former Boston University linemate of Jack Eichel made his NHL debut for the Sabres in those two games, scoring his first NHL goal during the season finale against the New York Islanders in Barclays Center. The brief taste of the NHL spurred Rodrigues all summer and he got another opportunity here Tuesday night against the St. Louis Blues.
Rodrigues joined the Sabres for the first time this season after getting called up from Rochester, while Nicholas Baptiste and defenseman Justin Falk rejoined the club for the game in Scottrade Center.
"It was definitely nice to get those two games at the end of the year. It kind of proved to myself I could play here and gave me more motivation going into the summer," Rodrigues said. "I think I wanted to get up a little bit earlier. Having it come later rather than never was a nice thing. Being able to get a couple points also helped. It gives me a lot of confidence coming into today and I'm here to prove myself again and contribute to this team."
Rodrigues worked on the fourth line with center Derek Grant and Baptiste, who returned from scoring two goals in Rochester's 3-2 win Sunday in Springfield. Baptiste had a three-games-in-three-days weekend, as he played in both ends of the Sabres' home-and-home set with New Jersey.
Rodrigues had a super-sized Corsi rating of 73.9 percent during his two NHL games last year, which was certainly noted by General Manager Tim Murray.
"It was a small sample size but Tim may have used some very flamboyant descriptions of Evan's game based on the fact that being at 75 percent Corsi is past superstar status in terms of shooting the puck and having the puck," said a smiling coach Dan Bylsma. "Maybe it was better in the NHL than the American Hockey League. I reminded him how he did have success."
Due to injuries in both Buffalo and Rochester and the Amerks' thin lineup, Rodrigues has been playing out of position at center most of the time this year in the AHL. He had three goals and five assists in 13 games.
"I've gained confidence game in and game out," Rodrigues said. "The coaches put me in a lot of different situations and that's only helped me become a better player. I've played all year at center. It's just one of those things. It kind of fit well and I've been playing well there."
The Sabres opted against using rookie William Carrier on the top line, even though he finished Saturday's game alongside Kyle Okposo and Sam Reinhart and spent all of Monday's practice there.
They did no line work during the morning skate and Evander Kane went back on the line for the start of Tuesday's game. Carrier skated with Zemgus Girgensons and Matt Moulson.
"He's earned the opportunity to get more quality time than he's got," Bylsma said of Carrier. "We're trying to spread our speed and energy throughout the four lines rather than stacking it up on one."
Even with Eichel and Ryan O'Reilly out due to injury, Blues coach Ken Hitchcock had a healthy fear of the Sabres' newcomers heading into the game.
"They just have so much speed and they use it to check. ... Once you get going north, you better get going because they're going to catch you," Hitchcock said. "They have no issues on footspeed catching up to you. With the two guys that are out, they've got more speedy guys in there. They're not afraid to play with risk defensively because they know by the red line they can catch up to you. I watched them play Ottawa and they caught them every time. They've got some really impressive young guys."
The foundation established last year by injured Sabres defenseman Zach Bogosian and his wife, Bianca, has announced plans for a casino night Jan. 7 at 7 p.m. in the Town Ballroom, 681 Main Street. Dubbed "Casino for a Cause,." proceeds will benefit The Bogo Bunch to raise funds for the Buffalo Wellness Centers Juicer Fund and Roswell Park Cancer Institute.
Casino for a Cause will include live music, an auction, open bar and appetizers provided by local restaurants. Bogosian and his teammates will deal cards and work the gaming tables. Music will be provided by Bob Greco and the Rat Pack Band, along with a guest DJ at 10 p.m.
Sponsorships and individual tickets ($100) can be purchased at TownBallroom.com beginning Nov. 21 at noon. The event is for patrons 21 and over.