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Alex Nylander earns assist, absorbs crushing hit in season debut

Phil Housley said Alex Nylander needs to work on his timing. That's fitting since someone has already cleaned his clock.

Nylander played his first game of the season Friday in Rochester, and the Sabres' No. 1 draft pick in 2016 earned an assist during a 4-2 victory over Hartford.

"The first couple shifts were a little rusty, but the second period I felt great out there," Nylander told Rochester media. "It just feels really good right now."

He's actually lucky to feel good. The winger took a crushing hit from former Sabres forward Dan Catenacci.

"I feel fine," Nylander said. "I sort of didn't know what to do when I saw him coming there, but I just had to take the hit. I'm happy that I'm OK."

Amerks defenseman Arvin Atwal immediately jumped Catenacci for a fight. Because Atwal received an instigator penalty during the final five minutes of a game, the American Hockey League issued a one-game suspension.

Atwal will miss Saturday's visit to Binghamton as Rochester tries to extend a 7-1-2 run that has propelled it to 9-4-2 this season.

"Thanks a lot to Atwal for doing that," Nylander said. "I just thanked him in the box there."

The Amerks also welcomed back forward Evan Rodrigues, who suffered a hand injury during a Sabres preseason game.

"Hopefully, they can continue to build off the game they played last night moving forward here, just to find your timing, especially being away that long," Housley said. "It takes some time, and then you come up to another level and the game is much faster. We're just trying to get their timing back and in shape."

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