Inserting one player after an injury layoff can create anxious moments. The Sabres had two defensemen come back after long breaks.
Thanks to the forwards, there was nothing to worry about.
An impressive first period by Buffalo on Saturday allowed Jake McCabe and Josh Gorges to ease into the action. By the time the 4-0 victory over Ottawa was complete, they’d combined for one assist and a plus-3 rating.
“Fortunate enough, our forwards were awesome in the first period,” Gorges said Sunday. “We got to play a lot of shifts in the offensive zone, and you just start to feel yourself again. You don’t have to do too much, so it was a good way to ease into it.
“The team played great. It was fun.”
Gorges had missed 12 games with a hip ailment, while McCabe was out for five games with a shoulder injury. Heading into Monday’s game in New Jersey, they feel like they haven’t missed a shift.
“I really liked how they jumped back in,” coach Dan Bylsma said In KeyBank Center. “Both guys, with our practice schedule the way it goes, we just don’t get a lot of time to have practices. They’ve been skating on their own the last few days, and to toss them both back in there, I don’t think either of them missed a beat.”
Bylsma’s only qualm was McCabe was a little too aggressive. There were several skirmishes, including a significant one with Evander Kane and Ottawa’s Chris Wideman and Mark Borowiecki, and McCabe hopped in despite the shoulder problem.
“He jumped in there in the ruckus at the end of the game when Evander jumped in there, and I’m trying to pull Jake out of there,” Bylsma said. “There was one earlier in the game, and I was like, ‘Get out of there.’
“Jake was really good, really solid. Simple with his game, but I thought he played a real strong game.”
The Sabres brought seven defensemen to New Jersey, with Zach Bogosian staying home. He is day-to-day with a rib injury.
Sabres General Manager Tim Murray said last week he is in the market for a fourth-line center. He has a chance to bring back his original one.
Nashville placed Derek Grant on waivers Sunday. The Predators claimed him off waivers from Buffalo last month. He has one assist in six games with Nashville but has been a healthy scratch since Jan. 22.
Because the Sabres lost Grant on waivers, they get the first chance of reclaiming him.
Bylsma once again commended left wing Marcus Foligno for an impressive night Saturday. Foligno forced a turnover that turned into his goal, and he fought Borowiecki after the Senators repeatedly took shots at center Jack Eichel.
“Last game is a great indication of what Marcus is providing,” Bylsma said. “In the first period, he had five net fronts that were scoring chances for somebody else but were the result of him going through and driving through and being at the net.
“It was pretty clear in the game in the first period that they were going after Jack and targeting Jack. That was Marcus’ response to them doing that, and it was a real good one. It says a lot about your team when you have guys that are willing to step up and make that statement. I thought our team responded real well to it.”
The Sabres practiced without William Carrier. The left winger will miss a “little bit” with a lingering knee injury.
“It’s a wear-and-tear injury for Will,” Bylsma said. “Probably bone bruise would be the best description of what he’s dealing with in his knee.”