BUFFALO – Corey Tropp figured he could’ve stayed in the Sabres’ immediate plans. The rebuilding club kept several youngsters on the roster after the new regime jettisoned a few prospects.
The Sabres wanted to keep Tropp, but they figured the 24-year-old winger was better off playing regularly in Rochester. So they waived him prior to claiming winger Matt D’Agostini on Nov. 27.
Tropp, who played 34 NHL games two years ago, was claimed by the Columbus Blue Jackets.
“That was their idea,” Tropp said Saturday about the Sabres prior to the Blue Jackets’ 4-3 shootout win inside the First Niagara Center. “Did I agree with it at the time? No. We were 5-20. I thought I could’ve got the minutes here, to be honest with you. But it’s part of the business. I don’t hold any grudges.”
The surging Blue Jackets have given Tropp the opportunities the Sabres wouldn’t. He entered Saturday with two goals, three points and 19 penalty minutes in 21 games.
The gritty Tropp had carved out regular duty here by late 2011-12. He figured to have a roster spot to lose before the NHL lockout last season. He went back to Rochester and tore up his right knee opening night. Then he broke his jaw during a preseason fight in September.
“I play a physical type of game. That’s stuff’s going to happen,” Tropp said. “I think it was more the knee. When it’s a yearlong injury, especially when you’re pretty close to that jump, you did well the year before, and now you’re ready to establish yourself as an every-nighter. It’s tough. It (stunk). There’s no way to describe it. It’s frustrating. …
“I’m continuing to battle to get past that point I was at. But I think I’m on my way.”
Tropp, the 89th overall pick in 2007, played nine games with the Sabres this season, including four under interim coach Ted Nolan.
“I have nothing but positive and good thoughts from here,” Tropp said. “It’s exciting to come back. I love playing in this rink and I love the fans’ energy the times we were doing well. How this city supports this team is awesome.”
In 431 minutes and 21 seconds of ice time through 29 games, Sabres forward Ville Leino had only 22 shots on goals.
The Finn recorded his first shot in his seventh game. He has one shot in his last five appearances.
Not surprisingly, Leino, who’s always possessed a pass-first mentality, has zero goals.
Nolan was asked Saturday morning if he’s told Leino to shoot more.
“I told Ville to play the way Ville can,” Nolan said before changing his response.
Nolan said: “Here’s another guy with a tremendous amount of skill. But skill is nothing if you have no will to compete and battle and get dirty once in a while, and that’s what he has to do.”
Leino, a center most of the season, skated as a winger Saturday.
The Sabres made one lineup change, inserting winger Marcus Foligno for the injured D’Agostini. Foligno (upper body) missed one game.
Winger Linus Omark, a healthy scratch for the first time in Wednesday’s 4-3 shootout loss in Toronto, sat again. The slick Swede has one assist in nine games since being acquired from Edmonton.
What can Omark do to get back in?
“Not much else he can do,” Nolan said. “Just right now he’s got to be patient. Last game we made a change. We’re not going to change the lineup. So it has nothing to do so much with him right now. We just played well last game.”
Omark needs to play on one of the top three lines.
“You play him where John Scott or (Matt) Ellis goes, it doesn’t make too much sense,” Nolan said. “Those guys are energy guys and they play the body. They bring a different element.”
Nolan believes defenseman Christian Ehrhoff, still the Sabres’ top skater at 24:08 a game, is pressing.
An Ehrhoff giveaway created a Toronto goal Wednesday, a game he was a minus-2.
“I think he’s just trying too hard. He’s pushing too hard,” Nolan said. “He’s got the big contract, the big responsibility, the big label on his game versus just being Chris and just playing. So he’s got to get back to what makes him effective and not take the world upon his shoulders and really lead this team. He’s just got to be part of the leadership versus the leader.”