Jason Pominville’s 7-year-old son has grown up in Minnesota, spending the last five years there. So when Pominville got traded back to Buffalo on Friday, the right winger immediately worried how the kid would react.
There was no need to worry. His son ran to put on a Sabres jersey.
“My little one said, ‘You’re going to have the chance to play with Jack Eichel!’” Pominville said. “He’s pumped and excited. They have their jerseys on already, and we’re looking forward to it. It’s going to be great.”
The former Buffalo captain is thrilled to be coming back to the city where he got his start. The Sabres acquired Pominville, defenseman Marco Scandella and a fourth-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft from Minnesota in exchange for forwards Marcus Foligno and Tyler Ennis and a third-round selection.
“I’m excited about this year, and I think we can make strides,” said Pominville, who spent his first 11 seasons in the organization. “Every team is competitive. Every team wants to be in the playoffs. It’s not easy to do.
"If you look at the squad and the team and the depth that is on paper, I think we can get in. That’s the goal.”
The Sabres haven’t made the playoffs since 2010-11, when Pominville played for the team. While recent Sabres know little except for quiet buildings and losses, the right winger who was traded to the Wild in April 2013 looks back fondly at Buffalo hockey.
“I was fortunate to play those back-to-back conference finals,” Pominville said of 2006 and 2007. “There was 10,000 to 15,000 people outside of the rink watching the game on a screen. Hopefully, we can bring that same buzz to the city again and get into the playoffs and create that atmosphere again because it’s definitely something that I still talk about. It’s still up there in my hockey memories, so it was definitely a thrill in being there and having seen it before.
“You want younger players to have the chance to see and to live what we were able to do. Hopefully, we can live up to those expectations and exceed them.”
Pominville has already talked with General Manager Jason Botterill, who was a teammate in Rochester, and coach Phil Housley. While the 34-year-old isn’t yet sure what his role will be, it should be more significant than in Minnesota.
Pominville skated just 14:13 per night last season, yet he still managed 13 goals and 47 points in 78 games. All of his goals came at even strength.
“I’ve always been a player that is reliable at both ends of the ice. Those things haven’t changed,” Pominville said. “This year, my five-on-five play and ice time kind of dropped a little bit with the new coach, but I think my five-on-five production was still pretty high for on-ice time. I didn’t play power play as much. I was kind of in and out, so that affects maybe your confidence as a player. You don’t get as many touches, and you might not feel as good with the puck when you’re on the power play.
“My best stretches this year were when I was put on the power play. I got more touches, and it kind of translated to my five-on-five game. As far as what I bring, I still think I could be a good player and help the team out whether it’s an offensive role, a checking role or whatever role I’m put in.”
Pominville was also thrilled that Scandella was part of the package. The 6-foot-3, 208-pound defenseman has made a big impression on Buffalo’s former captain.
“He’s a big boy,” Pominville said. “He’s got a long reach. He’s physical. He can shoot the puck really well. He’s one of those guys that’s really annoying to play against.
“He’s a reliable guy, a guy that can get the puck out of your end. He can create offense. He’ll join the rush. He’s a good skater. He does a lot of good things well. I’m excited to have him on the team because I know that he’ll definitely be a successful player.”