Share this article

print logo

Sabres Notebook: Reinhart to play some center; Okposo says thanks

The Sabres used the No. 2 overall draft pick on center Sam Reinhart in 2014. For much of the last two seasons, Reinhart was a right winger, not a center.

Just a few minutes into Phil Housley's chat to open training camp, it was wondered where Reinhart will play.

"Do I really have to reveal that right out of the gate?" Housley said with a laugh.

Thankfully, the coach did reveal it.

"We are going to play guys that played wing and put them at center, and guys that played center put them at wing," Housley said Thursday in KeyBank Center. "We want to try different combinations, try to find the right mix.

"Yeah, I would say Sam is probably going to play some center."

Whether Reinhart stays in the middle could be a different story – the position swap has been a short-lived experiment in the past – but it does make sense.

Right wing is the Sabres' position of strength. In addition to Reinhart, they have Kyle Okposo, Jason Pominville and the young triumvirate of Hudson Fasching, Justin Bailey and Nick Baptiste.

The center spot features Jack Eichel and Ryan O'Reilly up top, followed by Johan Larsson, Evan Rodrigues and Jacob Josefson.

The left wing is occupied by Evander Kane, Benoit Pouliot, Matt Moulson, Zemgus Girgensons, Alex Nylander, Nicolas Deslauriers, C.J. Smith and Seth Griffith.

Moving Reinhart to center allows two of the Sabres' top prospects (Fasching, Bailey or Baptiste) to earn a spot on right wing. It also gives the Sabres impressive depth down the middle.

"The center position is so important, especially in our system," Housley said. "It's going to be important to have four guys that can play and be trustworthy. It'll be interesting to see how that plays out."

Sabres see chance to do something special as they arrive at camp

----------

Kyle Okposo's health concerns are gone, so there's really just one thing he wanted to say.

Thanks.

"To the people of Buffalo and to the fans, it's been really heartwarming for me and touching for me and my family the support that we've received and the support that I received when I was in the hospital and the months thereafter," Okposo said. "The community really welcomed me and really looked after me. I can't thank the community enough."

A concussion and an adverse reaction to the resulting medication put Okposo in the hospital in April and ended his season early. He started skating back home in Minnesota during the summer, and the No. 1 right winger is ready to join Buffalo on the ice Friday.

"There's times when things weren't going very well that definitely I thought I might not play again," the 29-year-old said in KeyBank Center. "I'm happy to say that those thoughts are out the window now, and I feel confident that I'm 100 percent and good to go.

"It was a long road and definitely some scary times, but I'm just happy to be here and happy that I don't have any worries at all, any concerns. I'm looking forward to hopefully being better than I ever have been."

Five Things to Watch as Sabres open training camp

-----------

There's no member of the Sabres who stands to lose more from the sacking of General Manager Tim Murray than goaltender Robin Lehner. Murray gave up a first-round draft pick to get Lehner in 2015 from Ottawa.

Lehner had an injury-plagued first season in Buffalo but a stellar second year that silenced much of the chatter about the deal. But with the GM gone, the goalie's slot in the organization isn't nearly as secure as it would have looked with Murray still in charge.

Lehner reported to training camp to start what's clearly a show-me season for Housley and new GM Jason Botterill.

"Me and Tim, we knew each other but it's not like we were hanging out at home," Lehner said. "I'm here because of my play, and he brought me here because of how he knows I can play."

Lehner was hopeful of getting a multi-year contract, something that undoubtedly would have been on Murray's docket. But Botterill only gave him a one-year deal for $4 million, up from last season's figure of $3.15.

"Things happen when new people come in. They want to get to know me before they do something like that," Lehner said, referring to a multi-year deal. "I want another year of just keep playing well, as good as I can with this team. I'm sure I'll be fine."

Murray's time in Buffalo is most noteworthy for the drafting of Jack Eichel and Reinhart. But Murray also swung key trades for Lehner and Evander Kane, and got owners Terry and Kim Pegula to sign off on making Okposo the richest free agent in franchise history with a seven-year, $42 million deal signed in July 2016.

"I think he did a pretty good job of putting the foundations of this team together," Okposo said of Murray. "In saying that, you've got to get results. It's a results business. Unfortunately, that's the name of the game and that's the nature of the beast. Mr. and Mrs. Pegula felt that there needed to be a change, so there needed to be a change.

"Obviously Tim brought me in but you have to move forward. This organization is going to live longer than any player, coach or GM."

Mike Harrington: Shifty eyes of Kane focus on a key year of his career

There are no comments - be the first to comment