The Rochester Americans are celebrating their 60th anniversary Friday night, with alumni from as far back as the 1961 team expected to be in attendance. Most eyes, though, will be on a guy making his Amerks debut.
Robin Lehner, who hasn’t played since the Sabres’ season opener Oct. 8, will make his first of up to three rehab starts with Rochester. The goaltender has practiced for two days with the Amerks, who play three games this weekend. They host Hershey on Friday, visit Binghamton on Saturday and host Syracuse on Sunday.
“He’ll get a couple games, for sure,” Buffalo coach Dan Bylsma said Thursday. “He needs to get in the net and see shots, stop shots. He wanted to go down for practice the last few days to get a full volume of shots and to get that there and get in a game and see game action. He’s pretty excited about it.”
Lehner was hopeful of playing in Binghamton, where he won the Calder Cup in 2011, but it’s not clear if the organization will use him in back-to-back games. Since the Sabres will be on the road until next Friday, it’s possible Lehner will remain with the Amerks through Wednesday’s game in Albany.
Buffalo defenseman Mark Pysyk will also make his rehab debut with Rochester on Friday. Bylsma said Pysyk, who has been out since breaking a bone in his foot Nov. 17, will likely play in all three of the Amerks’ games this weekend.
Among the former Sabres expected to be part of Rochester’s anniversary celebration are Richie Dunn, Andrew Peters, Daren Puppa and John Van Boxmeer.
The Sabres kick off a three-game road trip Friday in Chicago, followed by games in Winnipeg and Minnesota. They headed west without an extra forward.
“Conditioning stints are on your roster, so the 23-man roster includes Pysyk and Lehner, so we are at 23,” said Bylsma, who has 12 forwards, seven defensemen and two goalies.
The coach swapped wingers on his third and fourth lines Thursday, bumping up Marcus Foligno to skate with Johan Larsson and Brian Gionta while dropping Matt Moulson down with Tim Schaller and David Legwand.
Moulson has no goals in 27 games. Foligno had three shots and three hits in just 8:29 of ice time Tuesday against Florida.
“It’s one to build on with his play and the type of player he can and needs to be for us,” Bylsma said. “He’s going to get a bigger opportunity to do that because of it.”
One day after the NHL selected Ryan O’Reilly as an All-Star, the American Hockey League named his brother to its All-Star Game. Cal O’Reilly will represent the Amerks in the two-day event Jan. 31 and Feb. 1 in Syracuse.
Cal O’Reilly is second for Rochester in scoring with 19 points, including 16 assists, in 28 games.
The Sabres are auctioning game-worn jerseys, and Jack Eichel’s first sweater is getting plenty of attention. The bidding started at $250 for every player’s jersey, and the auction for the sweater worn by Eichel in his NHL debut had soared to $6,126 at 6 p.m. Thursday.
The auction, which is available at Auction.NHL.com and benefits the Sabres’ foundation, will run until 9 p.m. Monday.