The Sabres recalled forward C.J. Smith, their top scoring prospect, from the Rochester Americans on Monday and will give him another chance to make an impact in the NHL.
“He deserves a shot to get back and an opportunity,” Sabres coach Phil Housley said. “I like what he brings, the spark and the speed and the skill. Obviously, he’s going to get an opportunity.”
Smith, 24, skated on the Sabres’ third line alongside center Evan Rodrigues and forward Sam Reinhart during practice Monday, in advance of Tuesday’s game against the Minnesota Wild at KeyBank Center.
Smith is leading the Amerks in scoring with 41 points (18 goals, 23 assists) in 41 games.
He has appeared in four games with the Sabres this season.
Smith scored his first career NHL goal in a 5-1 victory against New Jersey on Jan. 9, before being sent back to the AHL two days later, when Jack Eichel returned from an injury.
“It was kind of just a numbers game at the time,” Smith said. “They said they liked how I played when I was here and just stick with it and obviously I’m back up here and getting another opportunity.”
Smith returned to Rochester with a positive mindset, recording a hat trick in a 5-1 victory at the Toronto Marlies in his first game back.
He racked up 12 points (five goals, seven assists) in eight games before being recalled.
“I just went back with a lot of confidence,” Smith said. “I think it kind of showed in my game down there, too. Obviously playing up here, it’s a little different pace and a little different level. I just wanted to go back down there and work hard and work for the guys down there in Rochester.”
Smith takes the roster spot of Remi Elie, who cleared waivers Sunday and was assigned to the Amerks.
Center Johan Larsson was an extra skater Monday and remains day-to-day with an upper body injury, Housley said. Larsson missed the Sabres’ 7-3 loss to Chicago on Friday.
Defenseman Matt Hunwick, who last played in the Sabres’ 5-4 victory at Columbus on Jan. 29 and has been dealing with a lower body injury, skated with Nathan Beaulieu as the team’s fourth defensive pairing.