It’s a good thing Alexander Nylander won’t be judged on just one night. His debut didn’t go well at all.
He knows that just as much as anyone.
The Sabres’ first-round draft pick had a night to forget during Buffalo’s 6-3 loss to New Jersey on Saturday. He failed to record a shot and was minus-3 during the opener of the Sabres’ prospect challenge.
“I didn’t play so well,” Nylander said Sunday in HarborCenter. “I’ve just got to work harder in all three zones.”
While Dan Lambert wasn’t impressed with Nylander’s performance, the coach was pleased to hear the 18-year-old own up to it.
“We have to remember he’s nervous, too,” Lambert said. “He’s got a lot of pressure, and he knows he can play better. I think that’s the main thing. As soon you ask him the question, ‘How do you think you were last night?’ the answer wasn’t, ‘Oh, I thought I was great.’
“You know that he’s accountable, and that’s a big thing for a young hockey player.”
Lambert noted there wasn’t much of a connection for the left winger with center Giorgio Estephan and right wing Evan Rodrigues, so the coach gave Nylander a new line Sunday – and a new position. The No. 8 overall pick lined up as the center for left wing Nicholas Baptiste and right wing Hudson Fasching.
“We just thought we’d try something different and see how it goes,” Lambert said. “Playing center, he’s going to be forced and expected to skate a little more than he did. Hopefully, we’ll see that.”
If Nylander starts at center Monday night in the tournament finale against Boston, it’ll be his first time in the middle in four years.
“I played center when I was younger, so nothing unusual,” he said. “It feels good there. On our line” in junior hockey, “whoever was first back was playing center, so it’s something that I’m used to.”
Jason Kasdorf is slated to start in goal for the Sabres against the Bruins (7 p.m., Radio ESPN-AM 1520). Acquired from Winnipeg as part of the Evander Kane trade, he made his NHL in the Sabres’ home finale after recovering from a groin injury. He stopped 26 of 30 shots in a 4-1 loss to Columbus.
“One of the things I learned last year was I need to get adjusted to the speed of the shots,” Kasdorf said. “A big thing for me this summer was skating with pro guys and getting used to that speed. That’s something I did, and I think it helped me out.”
Goaltender Linus Ullmark played in the opening game of the tournament and stopped 24 of 29 shots.
After sitting out Saturday, center Matthew Lane is scheduled to suit up for the Sabres. He has been skating in the middle of left wing William Carrier and right wing Justin Bailey.
Lane is a Rochester native who signed a minor-league contract with the Amerks. The 22-year-old graduated from Boston University this year and recorded 14 goals and 28 points in 39 games as a senior.
“First year coming out of college, just learn any little thing I can on and off the ice and just get better,” he said. “As of right now I’m definitely excited to hopefully make the Amerks and come home.”