Matthew Barnaby has yet to score in 12 games this season as a Buffalo Sabre, but the 21-year-old forward isn't necessarily headed back to Rochester in the American League once Dale Hawerchuk returns from his groin injury.
Hawerchuk's eventual return would give Buffalo a surplus of forwards, but, coach John Muckler said, "those situations take care of themselves. You can always use a good player.
"I think he's played very well," Muckler said of Barnaby. "He hasn't scored. You have to take a look at that, but as far as work ethic and willingness to compete, he's excellent, and he's skating very, very well."
Barnaby has played mostly left wing as a pro, but Muckler pressed him into service as a center during Dave Hannan's absence from the lineup last week.
Barnaby was back on left wing Tuesday night against Pittsburgh, skating on the fourth line with Bob Sweeney and Jason Dawe.
Because Muckler was matching the Hannan line against the Penguins' Jaromir Jagr line and also using the Pat LaFontaine-Alexander Mogilny line as often as he could, there wasn't a lot of ice time for the fourth line. In the second period Tuesday, Barnaby, Sweeney and Dawe hardly played.
In the third they played more and managed to stir things up.
"In the third period they put our line out to try and change the momentum, get a couple of body checks in and get a little forecheck going," Barnaby said.
The combative winger was only 19 when he broke in with the Sabres in 1993, playing two games at the end of the season and another in the playoffs. He has split the last two seasons between Rochester and Buffalo and is determined to stick this time.
"I know Dale is coming back within a week probably," Barnaby said. "It's always in the back of my head. I just take it day by day and work my hardest."
Muckler said the Sabres are in contract negotiations with center Brian Holzinger, who has completed his senior season at Bowling Green. Holzinger could join the team at any time once he is signed. Holzinger, who played junior hockey with the Detroit Junior Red Wings, was selected by Buffalo in the sixth round in 1991.
Except for an emergency situation, the Sabres can't call up a drafted player from junior hockey until his team has completed its season. Then, a player can be recalled on a five-game amateur tryout basis, which could be extended by three games.
If the player signs after his junior season, there are no restrictions on how many games he can play.
Muckler said that Buffalo hopes center Wayne Primeau and center Curtis Brown, the team's No. 1 and No. 2 picks in the 1994 draft, will join the Sabres after their teams are eliminated.
Another 1994 draftee, defenseman Rumun Ndur, probably won't be available for a while because his Guelph team in the Ontario Hockey League is expected to go deep into the playoffs.
Buffalo also hopes to sign defenseman Sergei Klimentiev (fifth round, '94) of Medicine Hat in the Western League and assign him to Rochester once his team is eliminated.