DENVER – As Ryan O’Reilly rode the bus from the Denver airport to an area practice rink Tuesday afternoon, the memories flooded back as he spied the city skyline.
“It feels like forever ago that I was here,” said the Sabres center and longtime member of the Colorado Avalanche. “It’s amazing. I feel like it’s the city where I kind of turned into a man. Coming in so young and all the experiences I’ve had here, it’s just such a great time.
“There’s so many good relationships that I had here whether it was teammates and just friends in the city, it’s definitely something I missed.”
He’ll get a short time to reconnect. The Sabres will visit the Avs on Wednesday, the first meeting between the teams since June’s blockbuster trade that brought O’Reilly to Buffalo. He came to the Sabres along with Jamie McGinn, who has played against former teams before and offered tips.
“He said if anything it’s kind of a weird experience when you have so many good friends that you’ve played with for a long time,” O’Reilly said in Big Bear Ice Arena. “You watch everything turn, and you’re on the other end of it now. It’s an exciting experience, and I’m looking forward to it.”
As for the reaction from the fans, who watched O’Reilly have contract disputes with the Avs?
“I don’t think it’ll be a great one, but I’m happy with the way everything worked out,” O’Reilly said. “I’m happy in Buffalo now.”
Robin Lehner will start in goal for the Sabres, who could get Josh Gorges back after the defenseman missed two games with an injury.
“His days have been important for his recovery, and he’s been better in successive days, so there’s a good chance we can see him,” said coach Dan Bylsma.
There’s no word on who Gorges would replace for a defensive unit that has teamed with goalie Chad Johnson to allow two goals in two games.
“That game against Arizona, we gave up eight or nine scoring chances, and that might have been our fewest of the year,” Bylsma said. “As a group, we played pretty well defensively in that game, so yeah, they’d be making it hard for me.”