Danny O'Regan might make his Sabres debut Thursday night in Ottawa and the forward acquired last week from San Jose knows he's not going to slip into the Buffalo lineup unnoticed. Especially after being the lone current player acquired for Evander Kane, Buffalo's top rental at the deadline.
"I try not to put that pressure on myself but I know because I'm part of the Evander Kane trade – it's not like it was a 1-for-1 deal – I definitely want to show the organization I can play hockey," O'Regan said Wednesday in KeyBank Center. "I'm going to try to do my best, work hard, compete, play fast and create some offense."
O'Regan, 24, was the AHL Rookie of the Year last season after collecting 23 goals and 58 points for the San Jose Barracuda. He scored twice in his three games in Rochester after not registering a goal in 19 games with the Sharks. He was called up from the Amerks on Wednesday and was a healthy scratch for the game against the Calgary Flames. Buffalo coach Phil Housley would only say "could be" when asked if O'Regan's debut might come against the Senators in Canadian Tire Centre.
"I could see him getting some games in the future here," Housley said. "He's just a really good solid prospect for us and he's going to get an opportunity."
The Sabres needed an extra forward after Kyle Criscuolo suffered a shoulder injury Monday against Toronto that will sideline him 4-6 weeks. Evan Rodrigues is still out with what's believed to be rib issues so Seth Griffith returned to the lineup and O'Regan was recalled.
When the trade with the San Jose Sharks went down an hour before the NHL's Feb. 26 trade deadline, O'Regan said the first people he heard from were some family members. The next two to text: Former Boston University linemates, and now current Sabres teammates, Rodrigues and Jack Eichel.
"They're both good friends and I knew they'd make me feel right at home since I got here," O'Regan said. "They've been great so far. ... Jack called right away, too. So I talked to those guys and they were excited. And I was just as excited to be here."
O'Regan admitted the trade took him by surprise given the season he had last year in the AHL.
"I loved playing in San Jose. They're a great organization but I was really excited to start here," he said. "This organization has been just great so far. Rochester was a great week for me to get settled and get used to some of the systems how they want to play around here.
"I thought it was a good team. I liked the way they play. They play hard, play fast. A lot of good guys in the room. It's hard hockey, creating a lot of offense so it's a fun system to be in."
O'Regan played on the same line as Eichel and Rodrigues during BU's run to the 2015 Frozen Four championship game. While he had been teammates with Rodrigues, it was a new experience playing with Eichel, who emerged as the Hobey Baker Award winner and one of the greatest freshmen in NCAA history.
"Jack was consistently just the best player in the country," O'Regan said. "It was kind of unfair. He was supposed to be in high school and he was just dominant playing against guys six years older than him. It was really cool, fun to play with him and just watch him sometimes. You get caught out there watching."
If Eichel comes back from his high ankle sprain later this month, might the band get back together as a trio for a few shifts?
"We've joked around. Me and Evan were talking about it," O'Regan said. "It creeps in but it's not something I'm looking to have happen next week. I've got to earn my spot, stay up here and get myself in the lineup. If that day comes, I think we'll get the chemistry back right away. Until then I just have to take care of business."
Sabres center Ryan O'Reilly came in at No. 5 on the list of the NHL's most underrated players as part of an annual survey of more than 500 members released Wednesday by the NHL Players Association.
Washington's Nicklas Backstrom led the way with 8.6 percent of the vote, followed by St. Louis' Jaden Schwartz (6.8), Tampa Bay's Nikita Kucherov (6.2), Florida's Aleksander Barkov (6.0) and O'Reilly (2.3).
O'Reilly entered Wednesday with 19 goals, 30 assists and 49 points while playing 65 of the Sabres' 66 games this season. He had 12 points in his last 11 games and a four-game point streak that was tied for his longest of the season.
O'Reilly led the NHL in faceoff wins (1,007) and percentage (60.7) and he's on pace to finish second in victories in the circle all-time. The record is currently held by Carolina's Rod Brind'Amour with 1,268 in 2005-06. The league began tracking faceoffs in 1997.
Two former Sabres captains were listed in the category of "Which current assistant coach should be the next head coach?" Steve Ott, in his first year behind the bench in St. Louis, finished tied for third in the voting at 5.1 percent. Former Sabres coach Lindy Ruff, in his first season with the New York Rangers, was fifth at 4.2 percent. Toronto's D.J. Smith won that category at 8.3 percent.
South Buffalo's Patrick Kane of Chicago got several nods in the poll. He finished third to Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid for "Most difficult player to play against" and third behind the same pair for "Most difficult forward to play against." He finished fourth behind Crosby, McDavid and Montreal goalie Carey Price as the answer to the question, 'If you need to win one game, who is the No. 1 player (any position) you would want on your team?"
Former Sabres goalie Dominik Hasek was named No. 3 goalie all-time, getting 13.6 percent of the vote. Patrick Roy (39.3) and Martin Brodeur (33.2) were 1-2.
Calgary star Johnny Gaudreau played in his 300th NHL game here Wednesday, and entered it fourth in the NHL with 54 assists and tied for ninth in points with 74. It's already a career-high in assists for Gaudreau, 24, the Boston College product and summer workout partner of Eichel. Gaudreau's career high in points is 78, set two years ago.
"He's a world-class player. He uses his speed, his vision, and his hockey sense is through the chart," said Sabres coach Phil Housley. "He creates things by using his speed and quickness to get away and create seperation. And he has a terrific shot. He knows where to put it."
Sabres goalie Chad Johnson played with Gaudreau in Calgary last year and marveled at how the 5-foot-9, 157-pounder can do the same things in games that he does in practices.
"He can take games over. He just has that extra passion," Johnson said. "When he gets the puck and he wants it late in the game, he has that little extra to do things on his own. It's hard to do in this league to have a guy take over, control the puck and make plays when it counts. He's that guy, real clutch when they need him to be in big moments."
Gaudreau entered Wednesday's game second in the NHL in road points with 42 in 34 games (Tampa Bay's Nikita Kucherov was the leader with 45). The figure included a league-high 31 assists.
The Sabres' 2-1 win Jan. 22 in Calgary was Buffalo's first in the Scotiabank Saddledome since 2003 and a rare victory for a road team in the series. The home side entered Wednesday having won 18 of the last 21 meetings. The Flames, in fact, were seeking their first regulation win ever in KeyBank Center as Buffalo was 11-0-1-1 against them. The lone Calgary win was an overtime triumph in 2013.