It’s common for athletes to say a trade caught them by surprise, but it was particularly true for Jamie McGinn. He didn’t even think he was allowed to be dealt. McGinn was still recovering from back surgery when Colorado shipped him to the Sabres at the NHL Draft.
“It was pretty shocking because I didn’t think I could be traded,” McGinn said Wednesday. “It was kind of a weird scenario where you’re still injured. I didn’t know the rulings on that.
“Ten minutes after that, it was pure enjoyment.”
McGinn, who grew up in an Ontario town two hours away from Buffalo, couldn’t wait to get closer to home and play for the Sabres. He put on a uniform for the first time Wednesday when the Sabres lost to Ottawa, 5-2, in a preseason game in First Niagara Center.
“Being close to home, everyone’s super excited to have me here,” McGinn said. “It’s just a great opportunity playing in front of family and friends and such a great organization.
“It’s been a long time, but I’m ready to get back into things.”
A back problem limited the left winger to just 19 games with the Avalanche last season. His last game was in mid-November, and he had surgery less than a month later. Though the 27-year-old feels good, coach Dan Bylsma sees rust from the long layoff.
“He’s been getting back up to speed in training camp to this point,” said Bylsma, who has given McGinn a good spot alongside center Sam Reinhart and captain Brian Gionta. “It’s an opportunity for him to establish what kind of player he is and what game he can bring to our team. That’s a hard, up-and-down, grinding guy who’s a hard guy to play against, who can get to the inside.”
There isn’t much flash to the 6-foot-1, 210-pound McGinn, but his style can be productive. He had 19 goals and 19 assists for the Avs in 2013-14. The back problems prevented him from building on a career year.
“I want to show energy,” McGinn said. “I’m going to be there for my teammates every step of the way. I’m going to be a vocal guy, but I work hard. I try to go on and never take a shift off, make sure I finish the body and chip away when I can. I consider myself a big body out there where I can make some space in front of the net.”
Brendan Guhle continues to impress the organization’s decision-makers. The defenseman dressed against the Senators, becoming the only player to appear in both of the Sabres’ exhibitions.
“He’s earned this game,” Bylsma said. “Confidence and poise has been the biggest thing that he’s shown. He’s a young kid playing a hard position. Coming in as an 18-year-old, it’s not the easiest position to play. He’s been able to do what he does well, which is skate. He’s poised with the puck.
“I also think his compete level has been real high. For kind of a quiet and unassuming kid, he’s shown a lot of confidence in how he can play.”
The Sabres drafted Guhle in the second round in June, and they signed him to an entry-level deal a month later. It was a rare move. Guhle is still likely to be sent back to junior, a decision that would delay the start of the deal, but he’s shown he won’t leave without making noise.
“It’s hard to come in and play with the big guys with new speed and how strong they are and to be counted on back there,” Bylsma said. “At least through one exhibition game and through practice so far he’s shown the ability that he could possibly do it. He could possibly play back there as a young kid.”
The NHL and the Sabres have changed the way they welcome fans to the arena. Walk-through metal detectors will be in place at all entrances to First Niagara Center, part of a league-wide initiative to strengthen and standardize security procedures. The Sabres previously used wands to check for prohibited items.
Fans with bags, cellphones, electronic devices or cameras will need to place the items on security inspection tables prior to walking through the metal detectors. Keys, coins, wallets, jackets, belts, shoes, watches and jewelry can be kept on the patron’s person.
The only bags permitted are small purses, handbags, camera cases and diaper bags. Backpacks, duffel bags, luggage and coolers of any size are prohibited.
The Sabres say the following items are also prohibited in First Niagara Center: outside food or beverages, video cameras, selfie sticks, tripods, weapons, laser pointers, air horns and animals, aside from service animals.