Derek Grant thought he had scored his first NHL goal.
Playing for the Nashville Predators against the Canucks in Vancouver on Jan. 17, Grant was part of a scrum in front of goaltender Ryan Miller and pushed the puck past the goal line.
It would have been a perfect place for Grant, a native of Abbotsford, British Columbia near Vancouver.
But the play was under review. And the review went on. And on. Until the officials decided it was not a goal because there was an intent for the referee to blow the whistle.
"It was exciting being in my hometown. It was extra special and then they’re reviewing it and you’re sitting there waiting and waiting," Grant said. "It was a long review. The longer it goes on, the more you start doubting. I thought it was a good goal but that’s just the way it goes sometimes. I just have to keep working to get another one."
Grant now will be looking for his first NHL goal back with the Buffalo Sabres after an interesting tour the past month.
The Sabres put the center on waivers and Nashville claimed him on Jan. 11th. He played six games for the Predators notching one assist before they put him on waivers. He was claimed by, you guessed it, the Sabres on Feb. 6, who assigned him to Rochester on Sunday.
Grant practiced with the Amerks then got the call that he would be promoted for Thursday's game against the Anaheim Ducks. He played with Nicolas Deslauriers and Matt Moulson with Zemgus Girgensons out with a day-to-day mid-body injury.
"Obviously when you get put on waivers it stinks. When you get claimed it’s a good feeling in a sense that I know I’m an NHL player and someone else thought the same thing," Grant said. "It’s a good opportunity to come back. Obviously they're short on centers right now. I want to step in and do what I was doing before but take it to the next level as well."
Grant played two years at Michigan State before signing with the Ottawa Senators making his pro debut with Binghamton in 2011. His best pro season came last year with the Calgary Flames organization. He scored 27 goals with 45 points in 36 games for the AHL Stockton Heat and had one assist in 15 games for the Flames.
Grant has yet to find a way to translate his goal-scoring ability in the AHL to the NHL. With the Sabres, he's been a fourth-line center, which means scoring isn't a priority but he still knows he can contribute more offensively.
"It’s frustrating," said Grant who played his 82nd NHL game on Thursday. "I try to help the team win in other ways. Everyone likes scoring goals whether you’re a D-man or a forward. It’s always nice to be able to do that and when you go from being able to do that on a pretty consistent basis to this year where they’re just not going in, even with chances, it’s something you try to not think about too much. For me, it’s just trying to get back to being more relaxed out there around the net with the puck. Eventually one of them is going to go in."
Life in the American Hockey League forces players to learn how to prepare. For a lot of games. Quickly.
It's how forward Evan Rodrigues has learned to develop consistency, a trait in his game that grown in his second pro season and has him putting up some good numbers with the Rochester Americans.
Rodrigues had two goals in his last game and ranks third on the Amerks with 18 assists and fifth with 27 points.
He was recalled by the Sabres for Thursday's game in case Evander Kane was unable to play. Kane was healthy and Rodrigues was a healthy scratch after taking morning skate and pre-game warmups.
The Boston University alum said that he's been developing consistency in Rochester and that it comes from being "mentally prepared for every game from the first shift. I think that’s the biggest thing. Sometimes it takes guys a period or a few shifts to get into it and I’ve been really focusing on trying to be prepared from the first drop of the puck."
That's a lesson that takes some time to learn especially with the dramatic increase in number of games to play, the number of games to be ready physically and mentally from the drop of the puck through the final whistle.
"You go from in college to maybe a 40-game season at most to at least 80 games here. It’s a bit of an adjustment," Rodrigues said. "I think that mental aspect really helps you out."
The mental aspect is especially important for guys in the AHL where three games in three days is a normal work weekend.
"I think those are the hardest ones and the ones you have to really focus on," Rodrigues said.
The other benefit of his time in Rochester is playing with different players and in all situations. He's been able to take a lot of turns at center, a position the Sabres are looking to cultivate depth at.
"I think I’ve been playing in a lot of situations down in Rochester and I think my confidence had just grown knowing that I have the ability to play different positions in different situations," Rodrigues said. "I think that’s helped my confidence out."
The Sabres announced a community blood drive from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Feb. 13 in the Lexus Club at KeyBank Center. Donors can walk in or make an appointment. Free parking will be available in the HarborCenter parking ramp.
Sabres alumni and Sabretooth will be at the event, and Untys will raffle off 500 tickets to an upcoming Sabres game. Donors who refer a friend will have the opportunity to join Sabres coach Dan Bylsma for a guided tour of KeyBank Center at a later date.
To make an appointment, call (716) 512-7940 or visitwww.unyts.org/TeamUnyts. Donors should bring their photo ID and must be 17 years of age or older. Those 16 years of age may donate blood with parental consent.