COLUMBUS, Ohio – Sam Reinhart suffered through the embarrassing punishment, but the message was for everyone on the Sabres. Team policies are not optional.
Reinhart watched all 60 minutes of Tuesday’s 3-1 loss to Columbus from the bench. He barely budged in Nationwide Arena after being late to a meeting in the team hotel, a source told The Buffalo News.
“Earlier in the day, Sam Reinhart violated a team policy, and the discipline was not playing in tonight’s game,” said Buffalo coach Dan Bylsma, who declined to elaborate on the infraction. “We’re going to move forward from here. Disappointing, but it happened and we dealt with it. We’re going to move on from here.”
The message is “for everyone,” Bylsma said. “We’re part of a team. We do things as a team. That’s hopefully the lesson.”
The Sabres declined to make Reinhart available for comment.
Earlier in the year, Bylsma removed Jack Eichel from the power play for a team infraction. This punishment was much worse, and it was announced after the incident.
“It’s tough, but we’re trying to build something here and we’re trying to maintain a culture,” captain Brian Gionta said. “By no means was it something huge, but it’s something that is against what we’re trying to get to and be as a team.”
During the first and third periods, Reinhart sat next to the defensemen at the end of the line of forwards. The other 11 forwards repeatedly swapped positions and hopped over the boards while Reinhart sat still. The right winger sat at the end of the bench next to the glass partition during the second period.
Teammates occasionally conversed with the 21-year-old, but he moved little.
That's Reinhart on the right. pic.twitter.com/3f3W7EIE18
— John Vogl (@BuffNewsVogl) March 29, 2017
Because of an illness to right wing Kyle Okposo, the Sabres had no extra forwards available to dress in Reinhart’s place. Sitting on the bench would seem to send a deeper message than merely being scratched.
“It’s not fun either way,” Gionta said. “It doesn’t matter how it plays out. He’s a good kid. He’s going to learn from it. We’ll be better as a group for it.”
There has been friction between players and Bylsma throughout the season. Gionta backed the coach in this instance and hopes the lesson filters throughout the team.
“It’s for everybody,” Gionta said. “It’s not just Sam. It’s everybody. It’s keeping everybody to the same level, and that’s what we want to do. We’re building a culture here, so everybody needs to learn from it.
“It’s a huge part moving forward. It’s about the long term of this franchise and where we go and how we grow as a team and as an organization. While it’s a small hiccup tonight, it’s better in the long run for what we’re trying to get to.”
The Sabres are off Wednesday and return to practice Thursday. Reinhart will no doubt be the center of attention when the Sabres head back to the ice. The next game is Sunday against the New York Islanders in KeyBank Center.
The second overall pick in the 2014 NHL Draft has seen his points increase but goal total decrease during his sophomore season. Reinhart has 17 goals, 29 assists and 46 points in 74 games after putting up 23 goals, 19 assists and 42 points in 79 games as a rookie.
With Reinhart not getting a shift, three Buffalo forwards skated extra minutes. Left wing Evander Kane had 25:24 of ice time. Eichel skated 23:41. Ryan O’Reilly was at 22:08.
It was Eichel’s second-highest total of the season, behind his 24:23 against St. Louis on Feb. 18.
“He said he was feeling good, so we were going to try to put him and Ryan and Evander out there in any way we could, any fashion we could to try and get us one” goal, Bylsma said. “We have four days in between games, so it was a couple guys able to lay it on the line with a few extra minutes.”