Over their past two seasons with the Buffalo Sabres, Sam Reinhart and Jake McCabe have gotten pretty close.
So when Reinhart went into the boards with Washington Capitals' forward Tom Wilson in KeyBank Center Tuesday night, he could hear McCabe talking to him the whole time.
Most importantly, he knew McCabe was going to step in if he didn't like the hit.
Turns out, he didn't.
Wilson's hard hit on Reinhart came at 12:33 of the second period. Reinhart went down and McCabe stepped in for a brief fight with Wilson.
"He makes the play. He let's me know. He's right there," Reinhart said about the play with McCable. "I'm aware. The play is made. Obviously I got hit pretty good and he's there to step in 10 times out of 10. It was the right play by him. We've been pretty close over the last couple of years, so I expect him to be in there every time and believe it or not, I'd do the same for him."
Reinhart would do the same?
Well, yes. And as McCabe explained, having your teammate's back doesn't have to mean dropping the gloves.
"We all have each other's backs in here. You don't have to fight to show that," McCabe said. "I've got trust in all my teammates here that they have my back. Like I said, you don't have to fight to show it. You can take a hit to make a play and we did a lot of that tonight. We played a full 60 minutes, we've been talking about it all year but we finally put a 60-minute effort in tonight."
— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) November 8, 2017
Of course from Wilson's perspective, he thought perhaps McCabe should have received and extra penalty for instigating the fight. At the time, the Sabres had a 1-0 lead.
"The hit kinda came as the play developed and I finished my check," Wilson said. "I didn't even think about fighting there. I just wanted to play with energy and get the guys going that way. I don't know why I have to fight in that instance. To me, that's textbook, everything I've been told about instigating, that's what it is. It's frustrating from that standpoint."
When Zach Redmond found out he was being recalled to the Buffalo Sabres, it was about 3 p.m. Monday afternoon.
Plenty of time to pack his bag and eat dinner before driving an hour from Rochester to Buffalo.
Sounds pretty simple. But it's a situation Redmond doesn't take for granted.
Not all recalls are that easy. Not every NHL team has its affiliate just a short drive away. Redmond has lived the opposite of the ease that the I-90 gives to professional hockey players. For two seasons, he had to make the trek from St. John's, Newfoundland to Winnipeg, Manitoba.
The flight was five or six hours, but on top of that, the St. John's airport was small. There were only a few flights a day that could get a player to Winnipeg and those were usually in the morning.
Plus, players are rarely, if ever, told of the plan. So Redmond would have to pack for an indeterminate amount of time.
"Here you can kind of pack a smaller bag and if you need extra stuff go down and get it after practice or something," Redmond said about Rochester and Buffalo. "But there, you were loading up a hockey bag. You don't know when you're going to be back. So, every time you're essentially preparing to move somewhere else. Unless you're aware. But you're usually not aware of what's going on. You're just preparing to move. So it's definitely different. I can see why they're relocating all the minor league teams now to make it more convenient."
NHL teams are looking to become geographically closer with their AHL affiliates. It's not always the case (the Vegas Golden Knights have their AHL team in Chicago) but it's the trend. Winnipeg's AHL affiliate is now the Manitoba Moose. And the Manitoba Moose play in the same arena as the Jets. So long early-morning, five-hour flight.
While the call is always welcomed, the up-and-down hockey life can be a grind. For Redmond, there's a different kind of appreciation of getting the call with this stop in his hockey career, thanks to the proximity of Rochester and Buffalo.
"I think it's something you have to go through, maybe," Redmond said. "I had that experience and now I'm seeing this one and it's great. But I think you need to have that perspective to really appreciate it. Because if this was your first stop, you'd be …"
A little spoiled? He smiles and nods his affirmation.
"And you might not realize it," Redmond said. "I think it's a perspective thing."
Redmond played 14 minutes and 12 seconds and was a plus-2 in Tuesday's 3-1 win over the Washington Capitals in KeyBank Center. He took the spot of Matt Tennyson, who was hit in the ankle by a shot from Jack Eichel in Monday's practice.
The Sabres defensive corps continues to be banged up, but several players are close to returning, including Josh Gorges, who has missed eight games while on injured reserve with a lower body injury.
Gorges took morning skate with the team on Tuesday and said he is close to returning.
"I feel like I can skate pain-free, do all the battling and hitting and contact stuff without any issues. I feel good," Gorges said. "I don't think there's ever an easy time or way to deal with not being out there, especially under the circumstances now. I mean we're so short-handed on the back end, you want to be out there. You want to be contributing and be a part of it. So it's tough. It's tough to sit on the side and watch, but as I've learned, it's part of what we do and you've got to go through the process and when you're ready, just make sure you're ready to go."
While the Sabres have had injury after injury on the blueline, the team has not considered recalling defenseman Brendan Guhle from Rochester. Guhle, who played three games with the Sabres last season on an emergency recall stint from his major-junior team, has eight points in 11 games with the Amerks.
Housley said those decisions are made by Sabres GM Jason Botterill.
"That's Jason's decision," Housley said. "I think he's doing a great job developing where he is right now. It's fair to say we don't want to rush him. He's in a good spot. He's playing well. He's getting the minutes right now that I think is going to help carry his game and develop him."
Was Guhle even in consideration for a recall?
"No, not at all at this point," Housley said. "We want to have him develop in the right area and continue to make strides in his development. There are lot of players in this league that have been up and gone down and it's OK. The American League is a pretty good hockey league and it's a good place to develop."