Sam Reinhart and Jack Eichel have joined a list that includes Gilbert Perreault and Danny Gare. That’s a mighty fine way to start their careers.
Reinhart scored the opening goal during the Sabres’ 3-1 victory over Ottawa on Friday night, giving him 20 for the season. Eichel has 22, making them the third pair of Buffalo rookies to reach the 20-goal milestone and first since 1975.
“Anything you do, it’s a lot more fun when you can do it with a teammate,” Reinhart said. “It’s exciting to come in and be young and produce right away, but I think it says a lot about the support I’ve had. I’ve been able to play with some pretty good players.”
Perreault (38 goals) and fellow rookie Steve Atkinson (20) hit the 20-goal mark during the Sabres’ debut season of 1970-71. Gare (31) and Peter McNab (22) reached the milestone in 1974-75. Perreault finished with 512 goals while Gare scored 354. Both have banners hanging in the arena rafters.
Reinhart and Eichel earned assists on Buffalo’s third goal, combining to set up Zach Bogosian for an empty-net tap-in. Eichel has 49 points while Reinhart has 36. It’s the first time two Sabres rookies have reached 35 points since Ray Sheppard, Pierre Turgeon and Calle Johansson did it in 1987-88.
“They’re two good kids, a lot of fun to be around, very mature beyond their years,” Bogosian said. “You’re just impressed with how much success they’ve had their rookie season, and you know they’re going to be a huge part of our team moving forward. We’re lucky to have both of them.”
Reinhart narrowly avoided injury with 7:03 left when he was hit high by Ottawa’s Dion Phaneuf, who received a two-minute penalty for an illegal check to the head. The NHL could deliver supplemental discipline for the hit, but Bogosian delivered on-ice justice by bull-rushing Phaneuf and dropping him to the ice. Reinhart saw Phaneuf coming at the last second.
“I was able to kind of minimize the impact and then get out of the way,” Reinhart said. “For Bogo to do that shows how close everyone is.”
Nicolas Deslauriers scored his third goal in eight games, giving him six for the season. After connecting on a pass from Ryan O’Reilly, Deslauriers spun on his knees and slid into the corner.
“I told him he needs to score more because he’s the best celebrator on our team,” coach Dan Bylsma said.
Chad Ruhwedel has been philosophical about his season. With eight defensemen in Buffalo for most of the year, Ruhwedel knew there was only one way out of Rochester and back to the NHL: Work for it.
Ruhwedel, who finished last season with the Sabres, was one of the final cuts of training camp. He accepted his plight and waited for another chance, which finally came Friday when the Sabres recalled him to replace injured Carlo Colaiacovo.
“You could say it’s frustrating, but at the end of the day the guy beat you out for a spot in training camp and you’ve got to work your way up the rest of the season,” Ruhwedel said. “You’ve just got to keep your head down and get back to work.”
Ruhwedel has five goals and 12 points in the Amerks’ last 12 games, a run that started after he missed most of January with a wrist injury. He has eight goals and 22 points in 46 games overall.
“You always want to be part of the offense,” the 25-year-old said. “That’s a lot of fun. The team’s been playing well, so it’s been easier to get points and put up numbers. Ever since I was out with a wrist injury, things have been a little better.”
Ruhwedel’s best moment Friday came in the defensive zone. Goalie Chad Johnson got only a piece of a shot midway through the third, but Ruhwedel swooped in to clear the puck before it crossed the goal line.
Ruhwedel played alongside Mark Pysyk on the Sabres’ third defense pairing and skated 15:30 with three hits and two blocked shots. Ruhwedel will not be in the lineup Saturday in Toronto after being sent back to Rochester. Colaiacovo, who is day-to-day, is ready to return.
Goalie Jason Kasdorf, signed earlier in the week, is still nursing an injury.
“We hope to see him sometime next week,” said Bylsma, who figures Kasdorf will first work with goalie coach Andrew Allen before taking part in practice.
Bylsma said defenseman Cody Franson (head, neck) is no longer skating. The blue-liner, who got hurt Feb. 19, took the ice last week before being pulled back.