NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Dan Bylsma recently saw a picture of David Legwand from the center's draft day, when the Nashville Predators selected Legwand second overall in 1998 with the franchise's inaugural pick. Bylsma noted Saturday that the 35-year-old looks a bit different now.
"The hairline's receded and he looks a little bit older," the Sabres coach said.
Just then, Legwand happened to walk by in Bridgestone Arena.
"That's not me you're talking about is it?!?" the Sabres center exclaimed. "Man."
While Legwand may not have liked the description, it's certainly accurate. But like the Predators, Legwand is still making noise in the NHL.
"He's a veteran presence on our bench, in our locker room and for our guys," Bylsma said. "He's the guy who's saying it right and most often for our group. He's factored into the score sheet here recently, gotten on there and played really well."
Legwand enters the game between Buffalo and Nashville with goals in two of the previous three, boosting his season totals to two goals and six points in 20 games. He's also a lead penalty-killer on a unit that seems to be gaining its footing with a 9-for-10 run.
"It's obviously always nice to help the team and contribute in ways that you know you can help contribute," Legwand said. "The last couple games we've been helping out whether it's the penalty kill, five-on-five or the momentum. I think we've got to try to help anyway we can."
While on-ice contributions are important, Legwand is a veteran who can offer advice to the Sabres' youngsters. He did that for Jack Eichel on Friday during a 4-1 victory over Carolina.
"I just try to give him as much advice as I can," Legwand said. "There was a shift in the second period where he was trying to do a little too much. You're not going to win every shift you play in the National Hockey League. It's good hockey players. Some shifts are going to be neutral. You're going to play some shifts in your own end, and you've got to take that with a grain of salt.
"He's a great hockey player. He's going to be a really good hockey player for a long time, but some shifts are going to go the other team's way. You're going to dominate some, too, and when there's not a play to make you've got to make the easy play, the smart play and live to fight another day."
Legwand, who spent 15 seasons in Nashville, is glad to see the city is still living with the Predators. The organization played its 1,300th game Friday. Legwand knew right from the start the team could make it in the nontraditional market of Music City.
"The fans since Day One have been phenomenal," Legwand said. "Obviously, we had some good teams through the years. It's thrived and done well, and it's going to keep doing well because there's people here who care and want hockey to be here."
He praised former coach Barry Trotz for setting the tone of the franchise.
"We were an expansion team, and not a lot was expected of us," Legwand said, "but with Barry here and being hard to play against every night, it was something that we thrived on, not being an easy two points. There were people coming in here and wanting to do our best for the fans and the city and prove that we were here to stay."
The Sabres are again playing without forward Tyler Ennis (upper body) and defenseman Mark Pysyk (bone bruise). Neither player joined the Sabres for the two-game road trip, which concludes Tuesday in Detroit.
"No update for you on Tyler," Bylsma said. "He's day-to-day at this point in time."
Forward Johan Larsson and defenseman Mike Weber were expected to be the healthy scratches against the Predators.
Goaltender Chad Johnson will make his second straight start for the Sabres. He enters the night with a .951 save percentage in his previous six appearances. Two came in relief of Linus Ullmark, and he didn't allow a goal in either one. Johnson stopped 10 of 10 on Nov. 5 against Tampa Bay and 12 of 12 on Wednesday against Nashville.
"One thing that's been impressive about him is just his demeanor, his calm and collected demeanor," Bylsma said. "When he went in the game against Nashville last time for two periods, he was solid and steady, and he just continued on with the game last night."
Zach Bogosian, who missed the opening 17 games with a lower-body injury, will play in his seventh straight Saturday. The defenseman has averaged 21:49 of ice time during the opening six games, with a low of 21:03, so he's jumped right into the action.
"Both physically and in his game he's getting back into the flow of things," Bylsma said. "He totally missed training camp and totally missed the season. ... I think we've seen steady improvement in his game, and he's doing it in the midst of the fire."