TORONTO – Part of coach Dan Bylsma’s preordained plan for the preseason was to get plenty of work at both center and wing for Sam Reinhart. The second part of that equation opened Friday night as Reinhart played the left side on Buffalo’s second line with center Cal O’Reilly and right wing Justin Bailey.
“Wherever I’m put and asked to play to be a part of this team, I’m willing to do that,” Reinhart said. “I’m fully comfortable with it and excited for the challenge.”
Reinhart showed that enthusiasm by collecting three assists in Buffalo’s 6-4 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs in Air Canada Centre.
He set up Buffalo’s first goal with a strong cross-ice pass to Marcus Foligno, who beat Toronto goalie Jonathan Bernier on a one-timer in the final minute of the first period. Reinhart waited for Foligno to get open in the right circle and fired a strong pass directly on his stick.
In the second period, Reinhart used a quick touch pass across the slot to feed Nicolas Deslauriers, keeping his head up and quickly finding Deslauriers’ stick. Reinhart’s pass to Mark Pysyk set up the Buffalo defenseman for the game-winning goal on the power play at 15:05 of the third period.
“Points aren’t everything because I thought the last game I was better in some areas and this game I was better in some areas,” Reinhart said. “Obviously you work at a different position and there are some things you have to get used to but I thought it was a good performance for the most part.”
Reinhart said the fact this is his second NHL training camp has promoted more patience with the puck.
“Stay hard down low with the puck, hang on to it more and not just throw it away,” he said. “Wait and make the right play. Practice has felt a lot better this year than last year and that’s where a big part of the confidence comes.”
Defenseman Brendan Guhle, Buffalo’s second-round pick, suited up again and became the only Sabre to play in all three exhibitions. It was notable that Bylsma said using Guhle again was “an addition to the plan.”
Guhle was minus-2 in the first period, with his errant pass creating Daniel Winnik’s breakaway goal. But he responded with a two-point game, as his long shot from the right point was tipped home by Ryan O’Reilly for a short-handed goal late in the second period and he got a secondary assist on the Pysyk goal.
“He came out and played real well in the third, used his ability to skate the puck out of trouble, made a couple good plays for us and responded pretty well,” Bylsma said of Guhle. “He was a little bit rattled after giving up the breakaway but he responded well, which we need him to do.”
Guhle was selected 51st overall out of Prince Albert of the Western League and has clearly been the surprise of camp.
“The Buffalo Sabres aren’t the only people saying right now, ‘That’s a late second-round pick’ and being surprised about it,” Bylsma said. “His sakting and ability has been shown pretty well against NHL players. You see him in the summer time and in rookie development, then you see him against NHL competition and I’m watching in Minnesota and he spent a lot of time against Zach Parise in that game dealing with one of the strongest toughest players down low.”
Guhle was solid through most of Monday’s win over the Wild. His play was a little more uneven in Wednesday’s loss to Ottawa, with a loose puck eating him up and turning into a 2-on-1 that the Senators converted into their first goal.
“It’s the hardest position to play,” Bylsma said. “You can make a mistake, turn over a puck or have a puck blow up on your stick and turn into a goal and it can get lonely back playing defense pretty quickly.”
“I’m just trying to go one game at a time and ride the wave a little playing the best I can at this level,” Guhle said. “I think I’m playing fairly well. We’ll see how it keeps going here.”
Guhle could be heading back to Prince Albert of the Western League anytime and actually figured he’d be playing for the Raiders Friday night. Instead, he was in the ACC.
“I’ve never actually been in this building before. It’s pretty crazy,” he said. “You see it on TV a lot but I’ve never been in here.”
Sabres forward Jason Akeson escaped supplemental discipline after the NHL’s Department of Player Safety determined his hit on Ottawa’s Colin Greening during the third period Wednesday in First Niagara Center was not worthy of a suspension.
“Akeson’s skates are on the ice at impact, so the hit was not a charging violation,” tweeted the NHL’s player safety account. “And while there was some head contact, we deemed it was unavoidable under Rule 48.1(ii).
That rule discusses a hit resulting in contact with an opponent’s head “where the head was the main point of contact and such contact to the head was avoidable.”
The Sabres are likely to make a large number of cuts on Sunday as the Rochester Amerks announced they are opening training camp Monday morning in Blue Cross Arena. They will skate there Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at 11 a.m., with a scrimmage listed as part of Tuesday’s plan.
They will play preseason games against Binghamton Thursday at 7 at RIT’s Polisseni Center and Saturday in Binghamton. The game at RIT is general admission with tickets $5 and available online at Amerks.com or RIThockey.com.