Marco Scandella didn't play a single preseason game for the Sabres after offseason hip surgery but the veteran defenseman acquired from Minnesota is expected to have a big role on this club. He makes his debut in Thursday night's season opener against Montreal, hoping to make an instant good impression on his new team and fan base.
Scandella has played 373 career regular-season games and 39 playoff games with Minnesota over parts of seven seasons. But even at that, he admitted having a special feeling after the morning skate.
"First game of the year, you're always a little bit nervous. It's like Christmas morning," he said in KeyBank Center. "You're excited to play. I'm ready to play hockey. I haven't played a game in five months. Didn't even touch the ice in preseason. So I'm super excited about it. It's more excitement than nerves."
Scandella, 27, was acquired in July along with Jason Pominville for Marcus Foligno and Tyler Ennis. He is slated to open the game on the Sabres' third defense pair with another newcomer, free-agent signee Matt Tennyson.
"Marco brings a great energy and attitude to our team," said coach Phil Housley. "Every day he comes to work, he approaches it the right way. He can bring a physical element to our team, protecting our net front, playing the physical game down low. He can add to our rush offensively because he's got great mobility."
"Without playing any games in the preseason, things are going to come at him fast. Talking to him, we want him to just simplify his game, make the easy play and play his position well."
Scandella had four goals and nine assists in 71 games for Minnesota last year and has career highs of 11 goals and 23 points for the Wild in 2014-15.
The Montreal native said he will have several family members in the building watching him tonight. One of them is his uncle, longtime former NHLer and current Canadiens radio analyst Sergio Momesso.
"I'm just getting ready for tonight. I'm happy to have my family here," he said. "You have to battle hard and treat every practice like a game in my situation and that's what I've been doing. I've been working hard to get back."
My nephew cleared to play tonight vs Habs. Have a great year Marco ( after tonight ). :)) pic.twitter.com/CUPLj2RgAi
— Sergio Momesso (@SergioMomesso36) October 5, 2017