Share this article

print logo

Sabre trio fits in with big boys; Line of Foligno, Adam, Kassian is man-sized

There's a tendency during training camp to call anyone who's not a veteran a "kid." As in, "Wow, that kid looked good," or, "Man, that kid has a lot to learn."

There is one exception to that in Buffalo Sabres' camp. It's the line of center Luke Adam, left wing Marcus Foligno and right wing Zack Kassian. They're essentially new -- Adam played 19 games for Buffalo last season as a rookie, while the other two are entering their first seasons as pros -- but no one is calling them kids in First Niagara Center.

"They're a man line, they're not a kid line," coach Lindy Ruff said.

The three have been inseparable for the past couple of weeks, skating together on the ice, joining each other for film sessions or walking the halls to get ready. Averaging over 6-foot-2 and weighing more than 210 pounds, they certainly stick out despite their youth.

Ruff would like them to be even more noticeable. The trio played together during Monday's 3-1 exhibition victory over Carolina. Although they had a couple of odd-man rushes late, they didn't score or control play. They might get another chance tonight when the Sabres visit the Montreal Canadiens (7 p.m., 550-AM).

"They did some good things," Ruff said Tuesday. "There were some plays inside the game that you'd like them to be harder on as a big line. They were in on two two-on-ones, and both Marcus shot. One created a pretty good rebound for Kassian.

"Overall, I thought they were good. They can be better than that, though."

They'll need to be if they want to make the Sabres' roster. Foligno will start in Rochester, but Adam is in contention for a job. Kassian is a long shot.

"I've just got to show that I can play both ends of the rink," Adam said. "I learned a lot last year in my 19 games, whether it was playing away from the puck or D-zone coverage or offensive zone. I'm real grateful for the opportunity that I'm going to be given, and hopefully I take full advantage of this and make this hockey team."

The Sabres gave Kassian a good look last preseason before sending him back to juniors. The 6-foot-3, 214-pounder feels he's better prepared to make an NHL push this year.

"I definitely feel more confident," said Kassian, the Sabres' first-round selection in the 2009 draft. "I wouldn't say more relaxed, but I just know what to expect and I know what I have to do.

"I think I've developed more of a pro game. I think I've worked on a lot of skill work to hopefully be a good player in this league at some point. I kind of rounded out all the edges of my game. Obviously, there's still work to be done, but I think I've improved in all my areas."

Foligno continues his rapid ascension. Selected as a project in the fourth round of the 2009 draft, he's become a top prospect.

"You're talking about two players that got here different ways," Ruff said. "Marcus has got here probably purely on hard work. He became a better skater and realizing that he's got to be a banger and going through people.

"Zack's got a tremendous amount of skill, can play in the special teams situations, power play especially, fighting-wise was one of the toughest guys in the Ontario League, so they've gone down different paths. I think it's easier to say Marcus is more adaptable or a little bit ahead because his game would probably be a little bit on the simpler side."

The preseason game against Carolina was Foligno's first at the NHL level. He helped the Sabres' youngsters win the prospects tournament last week in Michigan, but pulling on an NHL sweater in his hometown was different.

"It means a lot," Foligno said. "I obviously played in front of the fans in world juniors [for Canada], but to be in the Buffalo Sabres' uniform and to experience the fans here as the home team, it's a lot of fun. It was great to wear that jersey and play that game.

"Hopefully, I'll get another shot at it."

The Sabres have made their first cuts of camp, sending 10 players to their junior teams and another to his minor-league squad.

Mark Pysyk, Buffalo's first-round pick in the 2010 draft, and West Seneca's Alex Lepokowski head the list of junior trims. The defensemen will head back to Edmonton of the Western Hockey League and Barrie of the Ontario Hockey League, respectively. Also getting sent down were: forwards Steven Beyers (Barrie, OHL), Dan Catenacci (Owen Sound, OHL), Cedrick Henley (Val D'Or, Quebec Major Junior Hockey League), Steven Shipley (Niagara, OHL), Kevin Sundher (Victoria, WHL) and Gregg Sutch (Barrie, OHL); defenseman Jerome Gauthier-Leduc (Rimouski, QMJHL); and goaltender Nathan Lieuwen (Kootenay, WHL).

Ryan Rondeau was returned to Laredo of the Central Hockey League.

The Sabres have 52 players in camp (30 forwards, 17 defensemen and five goalies).

e-mail: jvogl@buffnews.com