MONTREAL -- Benoit Pouliot has been so productive of late, the last thing he wanted to do was sit out a game when he wasn't hurt. It looked like that was a possibility Saturday morning, as Pouliot had a phone hearing with the NHL's Department of Player Safety for a hit Friday night on Florida's Keith Yandle.
But the Sabres got good news Saturday afternoon when the league cleared Pouliot, issuing no suspension or fine. So the veteran winger was in his normal spot with Ryan O'Reilly and Kyle Okposo for Saturday's game against the Montreal Canadiens.
Pouliot entered Saturday with five goals and two assists in 16 games for the Sabres this season, with all of his goals coming over the last eight games. He said Sabres General Manager Jason Botterill gave him a heads-up Friday night that the league might be calling and that's exactly what happened.
"I saw the replay and I didn't think it looked as bad," Pouliot said prior to the game in Bell Centre. "The helmet came off and that kind of made it look bad. When we saw the replay on the slow-motion I thought it was a bang-bang play and it was fine."
We have determined there will be no supplemental discipline for Benoit Pouliot. After a thorough review of all available angles and a hearing today with Pouliot, it was determined that the head was not the main point of contact.
— NHL Player Safety (@NHLPlayerSafety) November 11, 2017
Coach Phil Housley admitted he was caught off guard by the NHL giving the play a closer look.
"I thought Ben was just finishing his check," Housley said. "Yandle got tangled up a little behind the net and sort of leaned forward. I don't think it was his intention to get him up high. He was just out there finishing his check."
"They said I've just got to be careful with those types of situation," Pouliot said. "They told me, 'You're a smart player, you've never really been in trouble in your career. You're not playing the game that way but you've still got to be careful.' Those situations can be dangerous but fortunately Keith is OK too."
High hit by Pouliot on Yandle...no call: pic.twitter.com/dLH0uA06wy
— Cats On The Prowl (@Cats0ntheprowl) November 11, 2017
Pouliot, who had never been part of a disciplinary hearing before, was not penalized on the play and Yandle was not injured. Both of those factors certainly impacted the decision. Still, it was a surprise because most players who are called to hearings at least get a fine and a large percentage earn suspensions.
"I was surprised afterwards when Jason told me the result of what they were thinking," Pouliot said. "It was a little surprising but at the same time a relief. I was like, 'Good'. I didn't think I deserved a suspension or anything else."
Sabres defenseman Nathan Beaulieu made his return to Bell Centre after being acquired in a summer trade from Montreal. Beaulieu was selected 17th overall by the Habs in 2011 and played 225 games for them from 2013-2017.
"It's weird. I took a walk around the city this afternoon and it was just different," Beaulieu said. "It was nice to get back, see the familiar streets and just walk around and take it all in. But there doesn't need to be much to get up for this one."
Housley could relate, recalling his first game back in Buffalo with the Winnipeg Jets in 1991.
"It was very emotional," Housley said. "You went to battle with the guys across on the other side of the rink and you have to get comfortable right away, get settled into the game and just go about business because if you get caught up in the emotion sometimes that can work against you."
Asked what stood out about Bell Centre, a smiling Beaulieu quickly responded, "The best part is the hot dogs."
The massive arena's smoky dogs on sliced bread rolls are a favorite of fans as well as visiting media members, and players have been known to partake as well.
Veteran defenseman Josh Gorges, who played 464 games for Montreal from 2007-2014, returned to the Buffalo lineup after missing the last nine games with a lower body injury. Rookie Victor Antipin, who has two points and is minus-4 in 12 games, was a healthy scratch. One of Antipin's assists was on Okposo's tip-in goal Friday night.