ROCHESTER – It took Remi Elie a few outings to find a groove and generate confidence after the Sabres recently assigned the seldom-used winger to the Americans.
Elie, 23, hadn’t earned regular action since last spring, when he played throughout the Texas Stars’ run to the Calder Cup final.
After the Sabres claimed Elie on Oct. 2, he became their 13th forward, sometimes sitting out for weeks at a time. When they waived him earlier this month, he had played only 16 of the first 51 games, mustering just one assist.
“They expect a little bit better and bigger role from me here,” Elie said after recording a goal and an assist in Sunday afternoon’s 5-1 win against the Binghamton Devils.
After four months of collecting dust, Elie has started seizing his new opportunities in the American Hockey League and showcasing his scoring prowess.
“You’re getting lots of minutes and you’re getting confidence,” Amerks coach Chris Taylor said in Blue Cross Arena.
Following three pointless outings, the 6-foot-1, 205-pound Elie has compiled three goals and five points in the last four contests.
“I’m feeling good,” Elie said. “It helps when you score your first goal and the confidence just builds up from there. The guys are really welcoming here.”
Against Binghamton, Elie utilized his strength, one-timing center Taylor Leier’s feed over goalie Mackenzie Blackwood from in close late in the second period.
“Not a lot of guys in this league can pick that up,” Amerks defenseman Nathan Paetsch said of Leier’s pass. “Leiersie fired it to him on his strong side and he was able to put it top shelf. That’s really impressive.”
Elie and his linemates, Leier and Andrew Oglevie, displayed strong chemistry throughout Sunday’s game.
Leier set up Oglevie’s second-period goal, sending him on a two-on-one beside Elie. Oglevie also assisted on Elie’s score, the first helper of his 16-game AHL career.
“I liked their creativity in the offensive zone, I liked their speed, I liked their strength getting over pucks,” Taylor said.
The trio looked like they had been skating together for weeks.
“We just kind of threw it together today,” said Taylor, who inserted Oglevie after resting the rookie Saturday. “It worked out well.”
Elie said: “We just all support each other around the ice and we were skating. We just built chemistry pretty fast.”
Leier, who was acquired Jan. 17, understands what Elie has been experiencing. After spending all of 2017-18 in the NHL, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms cast him in a much different role than the Philadelphia Flyers when he returned to the minors.
“When you’re in the NHL, you usually start from the bottom of the totem pole and … try to work your way up the ladder,” Leier said. “When you get down here … most guys get put into a scoring situation, you get put back on the power play. You haven’t played that position in months. … Sometimes it just takes a little bit to get that feel back.”
Leier said he didn’t feel like himself again until about December.
Elie, a former second-round pick, played 72 games with Dallas last season before joining Texas for its playoff run.
“It’s nice to be back in that routine and be a regular,” Elie said.
On Saturday night, as the Amerks bused back from Syracuse following their 3-2 shootout win against the Crunch, Nathan Paetsch was home sleeping.
“I was able to stay home and get to bed at 10:30,” Paetsch said.
The affable Paetsch, 35, has played sparingly this season, making just five appearances. Instead, he has mostly served as a mentor.
Still, the veteran knew coach Chris Taylor would likely insert a fresh body for Sunday afternoon’s contest, the end of the Amerks’ three-in-three set.
So Paetsch, who hadn’t played since Jan. 2, grabbed a couple of extra hours of sleep.
“We haven’t played a lot of three-in-three,” Taylor said. “So for the young guys, it was good to have experience in the dressing room to help out with that as well. It was just a guy instinct I went with and it worked out. I thought he played a great game. He was fabulous tonight.”
Paetsch energized the Amerks by zooming around the ice and pumping a game-high five shots on goal.
“I should have fresh legs,” Paetsch said. “Everybody just played two games in 48 hours. … That’s my job. If I get put in that situation, I have to be prepared.”
Paetsch, of course, signed up for his 16th pro campaign knowing his action would be limited. He didn’t play his first game until Dec. 1.
“I’m here to help the team in any way possible, so I’m ready when they need me, and if they don’t, I’m here to help the young guys,” Paetsch said. “I’m here to help the team out. That’s my job and I love it.
“My whole reason for being here is to help the Rochester Americans win a Calder Cup. This is home for me and I want to do it for my city.”
Oglevie, 24, missed 29 games after suffering his second concussion this season Nov. 30. The Notre Dame product returned for Friday’s 1-0 home loss to Syracuse before Taylor rested him Saturday.
“I’ve never been out that long before in my career,” Oglevie said. “I was definitely anxious to get back. It kept dragging on and on and on, it felt like.”
Oglevie hadn’t scored since Nov. 9.
Former Sabres prospect Justin Bailey, who was traded for Leier, scored five goals in 10 games with the Phantoms before the Flyers promoted him last week.
Phantoms coach Kerry Huffman said the change of scenery helped ignite Bailey, a Williamsville native.
“It’s almost like him being there, from that area, sort of being in that situation for a long time, sometimes to grow you need new opportunities and challenges and push yourself and challenge yourself,” Huffman said before the Flyers recalled the speedy winger. “I think that’s the way he’s approaching it.”
So far, Bailey, 23, is pointless in two games with the Flyers.