BUFFALO – As the son of a former Sabres coach, winger Jordan Nolan’s memories of his new team and this area are special.
As a child in the 1990s, Nolan sometimes tagged along with his father, Ted Nolan, to the rink. In 2013, when the Sabres brought the elder Nolan back for a second run, Jordan proudly watched the news conference inside KeyBank Center.
Buffalo, Jordan Nolan said, has “kind of shaped our lives.”
“Buffalo’s been nothing but good to our family,” Nolan said Thursday following his first practice with the Sabres. “I guess third time’s the charm for the Nolan family.”
Of course, Ted Nolan was fired twice, never lasting longer than two seasons. Jordan Nolan, 28, hopes his run here lasts longer.
In search of some size, grit and leadership, the Sabres claimed the 6-foot-3, 219-pound Nolan off waivers Wednesday from the Los Angeles Kings.
“We’re so used to the area,” Nolan said. “I think it’s just a perfect setup for me.”
Nolan, who wanted to leave the Kings, said it “was pretty crazy” the Sabres grabbed him. He lives just across the Ontario border in the summer.
“A lot of memories here,” said Nolan, who won two Stanley Cups with the Kings. “I live over in St. Catharines in the offseason, (have) a lot of my friends and family in this area.”
Nolan also has a supporter in former Kings assistant Davis Payne, now Buffalo’s associate coach. Sabres coach Phil Housley said he spoke to Payne about Nolan.
“He knows the kind of player I am and capable of being,” Nolan said of Payne. “So I think he put in a good word.”
Nolan said he plays with “a lot of heart and intensity.” The Cups he won in 2012 and 2014 also make him an attractive player. Having someone who has hoisted hockey’s ultimate prize, especially on a young team, is important. The Sabres didn’t re-sign former captain Brian Gionta, who won a Cup with the New Jersey Devils in 2003.
“I’ve been part of a winning team (in Los Angeles) for years,” Nolan said. “I just kind of bring some experience. I’m not expecting to change the world or anything.”
But Nolan can help fill a void created by some offseason departures. The Sabres lost some tough players who possessed skill when wingers Marcus Foligno (trade) and William Carrier (expansion draft) left.
Housley likes Nolan’s physical style and aggressive forechecking ability.
“For a big guy, he really moves well,” Housley said. “So it’ll be good to see him being the first forward down, playing physical, coming up with pucks. He’s got a big frame. I think one of the things when you watch him is he protects the puck real well because he’s hard to defend, and that can wear down defenses.”
He added: “He’s just the type of player we need in our lineup who’s big and physical but who has a scoring touch.”
Nolan, who recently returned from the Kings’ trip to China, wants to play in tonight’s preseason finale here against the New York Islanders. Housley, however, wouldn’t commit to dressing him.
With the long flight home and waivers, Nolan went six days without skating before Thursday.
Clearly, Nolan needed a change of scenery after seven seasons with the Kings.
“My time was up in L.A.,” he said. “They knew that and I knew that. I needed a fresh start, and I’m pretty happy here in Buffalo.”
Why did Nolan know it was over in Los Angeles?
“Playing time, the feeling I was getting from the coaching staff, management,” he said. “I don’t think we saw eye-to-eye on a lot of things. I just think we kind of both agreed it wasn’t going to work out for me.”
He added: “They’re happy and I’m happy.”
Nolan has already talked to his father, who’s overseas coaching Poland’s national team.
“Once he heard the news, he was pretty happy, pretty emotional,” he said. “They live in St. Catharines right now. I think he’s just happy to have me closer to home.”
Nolan’s old number, 71, wasn’t available.
“It’s time for a fresh start,” he said.