When the Sabres finished practice Monday in HarborCenter, coach Phil Housley chose which player was heading into the center circle to lead the final stretching sequence.
"Papa," Housley called, as players laughed and tapped their sticks.
Evan Rodrigues took instruction as his coach asked. Rodrigues was back at practice Monday after missing Saturday's game in Columbus for what the team had termed personal reasons.
The news was good: His wife, Christina, gave birth to their first child Sunday.
Rodrigues flew to Columbus with the team Friday night but returned Saturday morning as his wife went into labor. Their son's name is Grayson Michael, and he weighed in at 7 pounds, 10 ounces.
"It was just: Get home, spend time with my wife and go," Rodrigues said. "We knew it was very close."
The baby was born on time, but Rodrigues said it was a little nerve-wracking being out West for 10 days on the team's recent road trip.
"Signs were pointing to him not coming that early," Rodrigues said. "Once I got back from that trip, everything went smoothly. We just kind of took it day by day and here he is."
Rodrigues is likely to return to his regular spot with Casey Mittelstadt and Kyle Okposo for Tuesday's game against Calgary in KeyBank Center. Tage Thompson took his place Saturday and posted his first Buffalo point, an assist on Okposo's goal that opened the scoring in the 5-4 overtime loss to the Blue Jackets. Mittelstadt's first goal of the season early in the third period forged the OT.
Asked what sport his new son is going to trend toward, Rodrigues said, "I feel like there's going to be a push towards hockey. But hey, whatever he wants to be. If he wants to be a golfer, I'll go down to Florida and follow him."
Defenseman Jake McCabe missed practice Monday with an upper-body injury suffered Saturday. McCabe played only a little more than three minutes of the second period before leaving, but he gutted out more than seven minutes of the third period against the Blue Jackets.
Housley said his status will be determined around Tuesday's morning skate. Rasmus Dahlin skated in McCabe's place alongside Rasmus Ristolainen on Monday. Dahlin and Ristolainen have yet to play together this season in a game.
The Flames come here Tuesday on the second half of a back-to-back after playing Monday night in Toronto. Calgary is on a brutal stretch of the schedule, with the game against the Sabres being its sixth in nine nights. Overall, the Flames will play eight games in 13 nights before finally getting a three-day break next week.
Calgary suffered the worst loss in its history Thursday night in the Saddledome with a 9-1 drubbing at the hands of the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Flames played much better at home Saturday, suffering a 4-3 overtime loss to Stanley Cup champion Washington.
After coming East for the quick back to back, the Flames have to head immediately home to face Colorado on Thursday and Chicago on Saturday.
Struggling starter Mike Smith got the call in goal for the Flames Monday, and he entered the matchup the Leafs sporting a 3.91 goals-against average and .869 save percentage. The Sabres are thus likely to see backup David Rittich, who is 2-1, 2.37/.933 in five games.