It was about 5 p.m. Saturday when Johan Larsson arrived at Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, prepared to suit up for the Americans in their game against the Milwaukee Admirals.
That’s when he found out he would be playing in First Niagara Center instead.
So he packed up his bags, got in his car and drove to Buffalo, making it to the arena just in time for the Sabres game against the Colorado Avalanche.
It was a fruitful trip for Larsson, who notched his first National Hockey League goal. The disappointing part for him was that it came in a 5-1 Sabres loss to the Avs.
“I think I got here when there was two minutes left in the warmup,” Larsson said. “I tried to think about simple things. Tried to get going right away. It’s hard. You don’t think that much.”
A good crash of the net in the third period led to his first NHL goal in his 34th NHL game. It came at 13:27 of the third while working on a line with Chris Stewart and Marcus Foligno.
“We had a pretty good shift there,” Larsson said. “They grind low there, Stewie and Marcus. I saw Stewie so I tried to sneak back door a little bit. I think it hit a skate or something and it came right on my tape. It was nice to get it in there.
“I’ve been here and I’ve had a lot of opportunities. So of course it’s nice to get the goal there but obviously tough to lose.”
This was the second recall for Larsson this season. He played four games with the Sabres in November. He came into Saturday’s game with four assists in 33 NHL games over the last three seasons.
Getting that first goal was a bit of a relief.
“It’s been a lot of games. I had some good chances, some good opportunities,” Larsson said. “I was thinking about it a little bit. In the end it was nice to see it go in and have it done.”
He’s been playing well in Rochester, leaving the team as its goal-scoring leader (eight) and ranked second in points (23) through 26 games.
His late call-up Saturday came after Sabres forward Matt Moulson couldn’t play. Ted Nolan said he was sick with “flu-like symptoms” and didn’t have enough energy for the game.
“Any time a kid scores his first NHL goal you have to be happy for him,” Nolan said. “We put the call into him about 10 to five. So he had to rush up here and play. Under those circumstances he played well plus he scored his first NHL goal.”
With 12 years of NHL experience, Daniel Briere is one of the elder statesmen of the Colorado Avalanche dressing room. Part of his role in his first year with the organization is to help bring veteran leadership to a young team on the rise.
But truth be told, he’s the one getting more from the experience.
“Keeps me younger I guess,” Briere said in First Niagara Center before Saturday’s game. “It’s been fun. I enjoy it. I feel like they bring a lot of energy. It forces me to try and keep up with them. I’m trying to enjoy it as much as I can.
“You know what? I don’t really change anything that I’ve done in the past. If somehow I can help the young guys in something that’s great. But there’s a reason why they’re here. They know what they need to do to stay around here and what got them here. I’m trying to enjoy them as much as I can.”
Briere was the young gun when he played for the Sabres from 2002-07. He captained the team for two seasons then moved on to Philadelphia and Montreal.
But that time in Buffalo was special for Briere. A 1996 first-round draft pick of the Arizona Coyotes, he split several seasons between the NHL and AHL before breaking in fulltime with the Coyotes in the 2001-02 season.
Still, it was in Buffalo where Briere saw his career blossom.
“I always have good things to say about Buffalo,” he said. “This is really where my career took off. I have a lot of good memories of the city.”
Briere notched his 300th career goal on Oct. 13 in Boston. That goal came with less than a second left in regulation to give the Avalanche a 2-1 win and made him the 16th active NHL player to reach that milestone.
Milestones like that indicate longevity in the league, and usually signal the waning of a career. Briere knows that.
“I’m trying to enjoy what’s going on right now,” he said. “I know I don’t have a lot of time left. So I don’t want to look too far ahead. I’m trying to live in the moment. Embrace what I have now. The end is going to come fast enough and then I don’t want to look back and regret it and say ‘Oh, I should have enjoyed it.’ So that’s what I’m trying to do.”
Tyler Ennis played in his 300th NHL game. … Josh Gorges returned to the lineup after missing two games with a finger injury. He played 20:22 and was credited with one hit and two blocked shots. … Cody McCormick and Mike Weber were still out of the lineup and McCormick was placed on injured reserve. Coach Ted Nolan said they would make the road trip with the team, which plays in Boston on Sunday and Detroit on Tuesday.