PITTSBURGH – Near the end of the Sabres’ morning skate Thursday in Consol Energy Center, defenseman Zach Bogosian was seated on the bench waiting to start a session after the team finished its gameday paces. Coach Dan Bylsma saw Bogosian and invited him on to the ice, complete with the coach’s escort as he held the player up in mock fashion.
There was laughter all around but it was an important moment, too.
Bogosian, expected to be the top minutes-eater on the Buffalo defense, has not played in a game this season after suffering a lower-body injury on the first weekend of training camp. He returned for one practice earlier this month but suffered a setback and had not been seen on the ice since.
He skated for about 15 minutes in the neutral zone Thursday, doing several large circles and cuts under the watchful eye of trainer Tim Macre while clearly testing some sort of leg issue.
“It feels nice to just get back out there and test it out a little bit,” Bogosian said. “It’s moving in the right direction so I just go day by day. I guess we’ll see how things react after a few days of skating.”
Bogosian has been on a week-to-week timetable and that hasn’t changed but it could soon.
“It’s good to see him out there,” said Bylsma. “He’s progressing and hopefully it means we’ll see him in the next few days continue to progress. Hopefully we’re looking at him skating more full-time in a few days.”
Bogosian played 21 games for Buffalo last year after being acquired from Winnipeg along with Evander Kane, collecting seven assists. He averaged 23:40 a game of ice time combining his totals with the Jets and Sabres – but cracked 28 minutes nine times with the Sabres.
Injuries have been a problem throughout Bogosian’s career, as he has not played 70 games in a season since suiting up in 71 for Atlanta in 2011.
“You want to be out there. No one wants to watch,” Bogosian said. “I can’t wait to get back but you have to be smart about it as well. I”m trying to do everything in my power to get back and be as healthy as possible. You don’t want it to act up.
“It’s frustrating. No one wants to watch. I love being around the boys. Being on the road trip feels nice to hang out with the guys. It’s better to be in the mix again.”
Bogosian did say he’s staying engaged with the team and new coaching staff through meetings and off-ice workouts.
“I do everything except practice pretty much,” he said. “I’m a rinkrat at heart and I’m trying to find my way throughout the rink and get things done.”
Defenseman Mike Weber’s stay in the press box lasted for only two games and he was more than pleased to get back on the ice Thursday against his hometown team.
Weber is from the Pittsburgh suburb of Cranberry and always enjoys playing against the Penguins. He entered play Thursday with no points and minus-3 rating in seven games.
“I want to bring the same thing I always try to bring,” Weber said. “All through my career I’ve been in and out, kept the same kind of focus and determination and do what I do and hopefully introduce myself to a couple of their players in a physical way down low.”
That was exactly Bylsma’s theory in putting Weber back in the lineup.
“In this game, we’re going to need his physical style, his abrasive brand,” Bylsma said. “We’re going to see guys like Patric Hornqvist at the net, especially on their power play, and that’s when ‘Webby’ is at his best.”
The Penguins scratched defenseman Adam Clendening, the Wheatfield native acquired in the offseason from Vancouver. Clendening, a former second-round draft pick of Chicago who played at Boston University, has appeared in just one game after being recalled from the minors on Oct. 14.
Tuesday’s overtime win in Philadelphia was the Sabres’ 200th regular-season OT decision since it was instituted in 1983. Buffalo is virtually even in those games, with a 99-101 record.