As the Buffalo Sabres were wrapping up an optional practice Friday, concussed forward Tyler Ennis walked by with a smile, helmet and pair of skates. When his teammates were done, he took some slow laps around the HarborCenter rink.
He’s not close to returning, but he’s at least making a step toward it.
Ennis, who has been out since colliding with Alex Ovechkin on Dec. 30 in Washington, began skating Thursday and followed it up with Friday’s twirl alongside development coach Dennis Miller.
“It’s moderated,” coach Dan Bylsma said. “His heart rate is restricted. He’s gone through some progressions of exercise. He progressed to skating.
“He’s made some good improvements, still not one where he can go all-out on the ice.”
Ennis, who has played in just four of the last 31 games, will miss his 16th in a row Saturday when the Sabres visit the Boston Bruins. There will be more absences. He casually skated in straight lines Friday before gingerly looping to change direction.
Daniel Catenacci’s time has finally arrived. The Sabres, who drafted the speedy forward in the third round in 2011, have recalled the 22-year-old from Rochester. He will make his NHL debut against the Bruins.
Catenacci had a five-game point streak going with the Amerks that boosted his season totals to seven goals (second on the team) and 16 points in 36 games. The 5-foot-9, 191-pounder is playing his fourth season in Rochester. In 182 minor-league games, he has 33 goals and 35 assists.
Catenacci will play in place of left wing Marcus Foligno. He suffered a lower-body with six minutes to go in Thursday’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Bruins.
“It could be two, three days that we’re looking at this injury,” Bylsma said. “I don’t anticipate it to be week-to-week.”
Prior to the season, Bylsma met with goaltending coach Andrew Allen to discuss the Sabres’ netminders. Bylsma wrote a stat projection for Robin Lehner on Allen’s office board.
The goalie’s numbers are even better than Bylsma hoped.
Lehner, who is expected to start in TD Garden, has a .938 save percentage and 2.22 goals-against average in six starts. Lehner has proved he’s fully recovered from his high-ankle sprain with his last four starts, stopping 148 of 156 shots for a .949 save percentage.
“After the first game, he’s been really, really good and solid in the net,” Bylsma said. “His control has been pretty solid for a guy who is an athletic guy, a big guy, a guy who likes to be aggressive in his saves and his technique.
“If your goalie keeps playing at this level, you’re pretty fortunate to have that in net for you.”
The Sabres and Bruins will meet for the fourth and final time. Buffalo is 1-1-1 after Thursday’s shootout loss.
“It’d be great to take three out of four points from them,” Sabres center Jack Eichel said of the back-to-back matchup. “They’re a team we’re trailing in the division standings. These are the games that we need to have if we’re going to make a push here down the stretch.”