Adam Wilcox wanted to be like Dominik Hasek. He wanted to pull on a Buffalo Sabres jersey, head to the crease and flop around to stop pucks.
He will definitely pull on a jersey. He might head to the crease. He will try not to flop around.
The Sabres recalled Wilcox from Rochester on Friday after a rash of injuries to their goaltenders. He'll serve as the backup to Chad Johnson when the Sabres visit Nashville on Saturday. With the way things are going, he might be in the net sometime during the final five games.
"I'm honored to be up here with the Sabres," Wilcox said after practice in KeyBank Center. "Even if it is the final week, it's just really cool. I had a smile on my face the whole time."
The 25-year-old is on his third NHL recall – he had one each with Tampa Bay and Florida last season – but he has yet to play in a game. It would fulfill a childhood dream to play for Buffalo.
"This was my favorite team growing up," said the native of South St. Paul, Minn. "Minnesota didn't have a team, so I always rooted for Hasek and the Sabres. It was pretty cool to sign with the team that I always dreamed of playing on. I thought it would be a good fit for me, and I'm really glad I signed here."
He and the Sabres worked out a one-year, two-way deal last summer to serve as Linus Ullmark's backup with Rochester. Ullmark suffered a concussion Monday, and Robin Lehner tweaked a lower-body injury Thursday.
Thus, the call went out to Wilcox. He got the word from Amerks coach Chris Taylor.
"I figured he was telling me if I was going to play or not the next day," Wilcox said. "It was quite the pleasant surprise to get that call. Obviously, anytime you get a call up to the NHL, you feel like you're honored.
"It's my third time, and it still feels like the first time."
The Sabres hold a stretch at center ice before and after practice, and someone is always designated to lead the group. The players nudged Wilcox to the middle Friday.
"I had to give a little speech there and didn't expect that," he said. "I had to think on my toes, but it's obviously easy to talk around these guys."
The players and coaches left the circle with smiles after Wilcox's pep talk.
"He's a very likeable guy and had some funny things to say in there," Johnson said. "Everybody's excited to have him here, and maybe he gets in a game, too, at the end of the year with where we're at. It'd be awesome for him."
Wilcox is 11-7-7 with a .903 save percentage and 2.82 goals-against average in 28 games for the Amerks. He's totaled 104 games in the American Hockey League over four seasons, going 45-34-22 with a .901 save percentage.
The Sabres got a glimpse of him during the preseason. He relieved Johnson for the third period and overtime of a game against Pittsburgh at Penn State, and Wilcox picked up the 4-3 victory when Jack Eichel scored in OT.
"It's pretty cool even if I knew I was going to Rochester after training camp," Wilcox said. "You want to come here and put the work in and show everyone up top that you're a hard worker and show them what you can do."
The University of Minnesota product is a self-described battler in the crease, a guy who will do anything to keep a puck out. That's not always a good thing.
While Hasek made a Hall of Fame career out of diving, bending and rolling, it doesn't work for many others – even those who grew up admiring the Buffalo legend.
"Whenever I do that nowadays, my goalie coach is kind of like, 'What are you doing?'" Wilcox said with a smile. "It takes away from being in control, but I don't think anyone can replicate that, even if I tried.
"I like to battle and compete, and sometimes it gets me a little out of control. A big thing for me is just continuing to calm my game down, be more composed, be more in control and then compete, battle and flop around when you have to on second or third shots. That's kind of been the biggest factor in having success in my game is toning my game down and being in control."
There's no timetable for how long Wilcox will stick around. Ullmark and Lehner are officially day-to-day, but there aren't many games left. After visiting Nashville, Buffalo plays in Toronto on Monday, hosts Ottawa on Wednesday and closes the season Friday and next Saturday in Tampa Bay and Florida, respectively.
The injuries are putting a strain on the organization. The Amerks went into their game Friday night with season-long ECHL netminders Jonas Johansson and Jason Kasdorf on the roster. Cincinnati of the ECHL signed two new goalies (Hayden Stewart and Josh Taylor) after recently giving Williamsville native and Holy Cross graduate Paul Berrafato a shot.
It's reminiscent of the end of the 2013-14 season when Buffalo ran through Ryan Miller, Jhonas Enroth, Michal Neuvirth, Nathan Lieuwen, Matt Hackett and Connor Knapp because of trades and injuries.
"It's been a weird last little week here," Johnson said. "In this business, you just take it day-by-day and just kind of roll with it."
Story topics: Adam Wilcox