Lawrence Pilut will have to wait at least one more day to make his NHL debut with the Buffalo Sabres. Phil Housley told reporters Friday afternoon that Pilut, a 22-year-old defenseman, won't be in the lineup when puck drops against the Montreal Canadiens at 4 p.m. Friday.
Marco Scandella, who missed the 5-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday night, will be a game-time decision this afternoon after suffering a lower body injury Monday in Pittsburgh. Scandella participated in an informal skate Thanksgiving morning, though he was one of the first Sabres off the ice.
If Scandella can't play, Nathan Beaulieu will likely skate on the third defensive pairing again with Casey Nelson. Carter Hutton will start against the Canadiens, and Housley said there are no lineup changes to his four forward lines. Despite Pilut's likely exclusion, Housley expressed excitement over his development with Rochester.
"I just think his overall 200-foot game," Housley said of Pilut. "He’s making really good reads in the 'D' zone. He knows when to jump in the rush. His timing is really good, and he’s contributing offensively because of that. In the offensive zone he’s getting power play time, he’s playing in all situations. He’s in a good area where his development is right now."
Pilut, signed to a two-year entry-level contract in May, was tied for the AHL lead with 22 points, including 19 assists, in 15 games for the Amerks. He spent the previous four-plus seasons with HV71 of the Swedish Hockey League and was named the league's top defenseman last season.
He was recalled prior to puck drop Wednesday when Patrik Berglund was placed on injured reserve with an upper body injury. Scandella participated in the morning skate hours before the roster move, however, he left the ice shortly after line rushes.
Neither Nelson nor Beaulieu played poorly against the Flyers, so Housley likely does not want to risk inserting a rookie with an eight-game winning streak on the line. The Sabres, 14-6-2 with 30 points, are also playing an opponent with a propensity to start fast. The Canadiens have outshot opponents, 247-217, in the first period of games this season and scored five goals in a 6-5 loss to the Sabres on Nov. 8.
Scandella had one goal among five points and a minus-1 rating in 21 games before he was injured while blocking Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin's shot in a 5-4 win Monday night. While Berglund has yet to resume skating, Housley told reporters that Berglund is making progress and the two spoke on the phone Friday morning.
If Scandella is able to play either against the Canadiens today or Saturday in Detroit, Pilut could be sent back to down to Rochester. After all, the Sabres currently have 13 forwards and eight defensemen on their active roster. They could use an additional forward if Berglund is to miss any time beyond this weekend.