Sabres Notebook: Ennis returns with feats of skill and creativity - The Buffalo News
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Sabres Notebook: Ennis returns with feats of skill and creativity

Tyler Ennis scored 19 seconds into the game but that wasn't the play everyone was talking about.

No, the play the signaled the true return of Ennis came later in the period, when he was alone behind the Dallas Stars' net, took a stride to his right and attempted to lift the puck into the corner. It's a lacrosse-style move and one that nearly worked. The Buffalo Bandits may want to take note.

"He's been skating a lot for quite a long time trying to work his way back from this injury," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. "And he actually pulls that lacrosse move off quite often. To have enough presence of mind to try to do it in a game when there's grown men out there trying to crush ya, it just shows the comfort level he's at and the ease with which he plays the game. In practice, I've seen him put it right in the top corner a couple times and this one almost went in after a bounce or two. That was just a flash of his skill."

Ennis has speed and skill, but that play highlighted the other part of his game -- his creativity.

"I mean, that’s Enzo," said Kyle Okposo who played on the top line with Ennis. "That’s just kind of his stuff that he’s able to do. He thinks the game a different way. He thinks in a very creative way. Obviously, scoring the goal on the first shift helps his confidence in trying stuff like that. He had some room and it would have been fun to see him pull it off."

"That’s the element that he brings, the element of creativity," added Jack Eichel. "He definitely keeps the opposing team on their heels."

Ennis was excited about the first goal, which gave the Sabres a 1-0 lead en route to 4-1 win over the Stars. "I planned it that way," he smiled when asked about scripting his return to the team's lineup after missing 30 games with a groin injury.

But he was also "pretty bummed" about missing the chance on his lacrosse move.

"I think (the puck) rolled off," Ennis said. "I had some room, actually. I think I just had to maybe hang on to it for maybe a split second and it fell off. One day, one of those will go in. I won’t try it that often but maybe another time."

The moxie isn't missing from Ennis' game but there's plenty to work on. Ennis played the first 12 games of the season, with one goal and one assist, before suffering the groin injury, which required surgery and two months out of the lineup. His post-game self analysis was that he was still rusty, and needed to work on his speed and his patience.

"There’s still an extra step, a little more jump, a little more pop in my skating," Ennis said when asked what was still rusty. "And then just hanging on to it and making plays. Things go quickly out there."

***

In the first period, Jake McCabe took advantage of a bad clearing attempt by Jamie Benn, who threw the puck down the middle and right onto McCabe's stick. The defenseman buried the shot for his first career power-play goal.

"We've all been there," McCabe said. "I'm sure I've made a pass like that, too. Just lucky enough to capitalize on it and hopefully get the monkey off my back and there's more to come."

Goal scoring, or lack thereof, is the monkey McCabe referred to. That was McCabe's fifth career goal and first since scoring March 29, 2016, in Pittsburgh.

"I was pressing early in the season and stopped worrying about it and concentrated on my defensive play," McCabe said.

***

Speaking of the bad play by Dallas captain Jamie Benn, the forward had some harsh words for his own play and body language. Just before the end of the second period, Benn was so frustrated he broke a stick over his knee on the ice, then took out two more on the bench.

When asked to assess his game, he responded: "Pretty bad. That’s taking it easy on myself, too. I wish I could say how I really feel but it’s probably not good for TV."

"I think it’s contagious and it runs through the team," Benn said about his play and demeanor. "So I definitely need to do a better job with body language and definitely my play on the ice."

Dallas head coach Lindy Ruff said he has concerns about Benn.

"I do. He’s struggled for a period of time," Ruff said. "Obviously, his struggles out there were easy to see. He’s fighting through his energy but he’s in the lineup so you’ve just got to assume he’s ready to go and I do. I see the frustration. It’s hard. ... It almost seemed every time he had the puck, something bad happened."

***

The Sabres were in dangerous here-we-go-again territory early in the second period when the Dallas Stars scored a goal to tie the game, 2-2. But Bylsma challenged the call for offsides. The review showed that Patrick Eaves was off-side prior to the goal and the tally was taken off the board.

"The good news is our video coach Adam Nightingale immediately called that one in and said it was no goal," Bylmsa said. "I think it brought a breath of fresh air for our team to not have that go in and get back to playing a game which we were playing really well."

 

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