There was no feeling-out process for Paul Byron's first NHL game. The baby-faced Buffalo Sabres center got thrust right into the action Sunday in the Nassau Coliseum, even on both special teams units.
As first impressions went, this was a good one. Byron played 14 minutes, 30 seconds and got his first NHL point, assisting on Tyler Myers' third-period goal that helped the Sabres past the New York Islanders, 5-3.
Byron and Matt Ellis joined the injury-riddled lineup after being recalled from the Portland Pirates on Saturday.
"I was pretty excited," said the 21-year-old Byron, Buffalo's sixth-round pick in 2007. "It's always a dream come true to get a call-up. I wasn't really expecting it."
Byron opened the game on a line with Ellis and Cody McCormick. Byron had four hits, second on the team to Paul Gaustad's five, and went 3-4 in the faceoff circle. On the Myers goal, Byron worked the puck to Nathan Gerbe, who made the goal-mouth feed that the Buffalo defenseman converted with help from Islanders center Josh Bailey.
"It was pretty surprising," Byron said of the ice time. "I just wanted to give the team a little jump and finish checks like I've been doing in Portland. It seemed I was awarded a lot of ice time so it's great."
Byron is second on the Portland roster in scoring with 31 points (14 goals, 17 assists). He had 99 points in his final year of junior hockey at Gatineau in the Quebec League and led the league with 21 goals during the 2008 playoffs.
Byron said when he reported to Portland after training camp that he was hopeful to get a call to Buffalo at some point this season.
"You never know what can happen and there's been injuries this year," he said. "Then when I saw when [Derek] Roy went down and [Luke] Adam got called up, I was just trying to keep playing and do whatever I could to get that call."
In calling up Byron and Ellis, the Sabres bypassed winger Mark Mancari, who is leading the AHL with 23 goals and had a hat trick Saturday in Portland's 5-2 win over Providence. Mancari has points in the last 10 games, with nine goals and seven assists in that span.
"He's been unbelievable lately, a great player for us down in Portland," Byron said. "He's a real leader that I look up to as a young player."
Veteran goaltender Evgeni Nabokov, picked up on waivers by the Islanders on Saturday in a claim that blocked a deal with Detroit, was listed on the game sheet as a healthy scratch and the Islanders still hope he'll report.
Nabokov, however, told ESPN.com Sunday he has no such plans.
"I think I'm going to stay home [in San Jose] for now, I'm sticking with my decision," Nabokov said. "It's nothing against the Islanders and their organization. It's nothing to do with that. It's just that I'm at the point in my career where I want to help a team win in the playoffs. I don't see how I could help the Islanders or what I could do for them. It doesn't make a lot of sense to me. And I hope they understand that."
Islanders owner Charles Wang, speaking before the game at a news conference for his annual international children's tournament, was baffled.
"I don't see why somebody who has this opportunity would not want to play and fulfill his contract. It's nuts, right? I don't understand any of it," Wang said. "Here is somebody the Islanders want that wants to play, has a contract with the NHL, really. So, we're waiting for him."
In addition to being listed on the game sheet, Nabokov had a stall in the Islanders' locker room prepared with his usual No. 20.
Broadcaster Rick Jeanneret will start his All-Star break vacation a game early and won't do Tuesday's game in Ottawa. That one will be called by Dan Dunleavy of Toronto sports radio station The FAN 590.
The Sabres won't have to deal with Ottawa agitator Jarkko Ruutu on Tuesday. Ruutu, most remembered for chomping on Andrew Peters' finger during a game two years ago, is out a week with a lower body injury.