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Sabres Notebook: Pominville pumped to return to lineup in hometown

MONTREAL — Jason Pominville said his pass list here Saturday night was pushing three dozen family members and friends. And that was the number he had after the morning skate, several hours before faceoff in Bell Centre.

"Some people got tickets on their own too. That's normal," Pominville said. "My dad just texts me every time, 'Hey, can you throw this name on the list' and I'm like 'All right.' But I know the garage after the game will be packed with visitors to say hello to. I'll be a big part of that."

Pominville is from ‎Repentigny, Quebec, a suburb about 25 miles northeast of downtown. Just as he hoped, he was back in the lineup in his hometown Saturday night after sitting out the last two games as a healthy scratch.

Pominville said earlier this week he was disappointed to be a healthy scratch and reiterated that stance Saturday, although he said he understood the Sabres were looking at players like Alexander Nylander in their lineup. At age 36 and with an expiring contract, Pominville doesn't seem to be heading to retirement but it's uncertain if he'll be back with the Sabres next season.

There was at least a small possibility that Saturday was going to be Pominville's last chance to play in his hometown. And he admitted he was happy and relieved to get back in the lineup.

"I don't know if they put thought into that putting me back in for it. I didn't really, to be honest with you," Pominville said. "I just try to enjoy the moment, go with it, go day by day. But when I saw my name, I was definitely happy. I knew we were coming here. You see Montreal coming up and you're thinking it would be nice to have a chance to play there for sure. I was pretty excited to see I was in the lineup."

Sabres coach Phil Housley has been asked about scratching his fourth-leading goal scorer multiple times this week and was clearly wary of the topic when it was brought up again Saturday by Montreal reporters. To Housley, moving Pominville back into the lineup in place of Tage Thompson was simply a reaction to Wednesday's 4-2 loss to Toronto.

"He's done the right things but we weren't getting results," Housley said cryptically of Pominville. "We didn't get the result against Toronto and we made some changes, but I'm glad that he's back in the lineup coming back to Montreal."

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With Pominville back in the lineup, Thompson and Scott Wilson were the healthy scratches at forward. The injured Matt Hunwick was a scratch on defense.

Between healthy scratches and a three-game stint on the injured list, Pominville has played 66 of the Sabres' 74 games this season. Sam Reinhart, Rasmus Dahlin, Rasmus Ristolainen and Jeff Skinner are the only Sabres to play in every game thus far.

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The Sabres entered the game with a 12-9 overtime record, and both the 12 wins after regulation and 21 games played past regulation were second in the NHL. Tampa Bay has gone 13-4 in OT/shootouts, the most wins after 60 minutes, while Florida's 22 OT/shootout games are the most in the league. The Panthers are 10-12 in them.

The Sabres entered Saturday 7-6 in game-deciding goals, including Rasmus Ristolainen's slapshot that beat the Habs here Nov. 8 in the opener of Buffalo's 10-game winning streak, and 5-3 in shootouts. That's third behind the six wins of Tampa Bay (6-1) and the New York Rangers (6-4).

The Sabres are 75-69 all-time in shootouts and the 75 wins are three behind the New York Islanders for the most by any team since the shootout began in 2005. Pittsburgh and the New York Rangers have both won 77.

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