BUFFALO – Popular former Sabres captain Jason Pominville recently told some friends he would love to help out their beer league team if they ever needed a player to fill in.
“They’re like, ‘You’re in full time!’” Pominville said prior to Thursday’s 4-3 overtime win against the Columbus Blue Jackets inside KeyBank Center.
So Pominville, who scored 16 goals in 73 games for the Sabres last season, plays hockey once a week at the Northtown Center in Amherst.
Pominville, 37, has enjoyed his new life. For example, instead of watching his son Jayden’s hockey game over the internet in his hotel room, he’s an assistant coach.
Being a full-time father has been a special experience.
“I love being a dad,” said Pominville, one of 17 alumni members the Sabres honored before the game for “2000s Night,” part of their 50th anniversary decades celebration.
But Pominville said he hasn’t retired yet. He has kept in shape – he skates in the morning – and would love to play in the NHL again if the right opportunity materializes.
“Initially I was – I don’t want to say picky – but there was only a few places I would’ve liked to play,” he said. “Obviously, Buffalo was one of them.”
Family concerns prevented Pominville from pursuing more opportunities. He doesn’t want to uproot his wife and two children from their Clarence home.
“Now I might be able to be a little less selective,” he said. “But for me, it wasn’t worth going somewhere far where you have to go somewhere on a one-year deal, either bring the family, you get traded at the deadline because you’re on a one-year deal, the family’s stuck on the West Coast, you’re on the East Coast.
“It just wasn’t worth it for me. But now, if an opportunity arrives, I might consider it.”
General manager Jason Botterill allowed Pominville to use the Sabres’ facility during the summer after his contract expired.
The Sabres lack forward depth and secondary scoring. But instead of signing Pominville, Botterill traded for winger Michael Frolik last month.
If Pominville doesn’t find an opportunity this season, he said he will “most likely” retire.
“Realistically, if nothing happens after a year of not playing, it’s tough to not think about stopping,” he said. “I’ve thought for a while now. Like, who wouldn’t if you’re not playing? I still feel that I can help. I still feel healthy enough and in good enough shape to maybe help a team.”
But for now, Pominville has become a proud member of the Sabres Alumni.
“It’s got to be awkward for them to reach out to me because it’s not really official yet,” he said. “But, I mean, I’m excited to be a part of it.”
If Pominville has played his last NHL game, he said he’s “not sour about anything.” He morphed into one of the greatest players in franchise history.
He ranks eighth in franchise history in games (733), 10th in goals (217), eighth in assists (304) and eighth in points (521). He played his 1,000th NHL game last season.
“I’ve had a lot of fun, I’ve enjoyed the ride and enjoyed every moment of it,” he said.
Sabres wingers Victor Olofsson and Kyle Okposo returned from their injuries Thursday.
A lower-body injury sidelined Olofsson, one of the NHL’s top rookies, 15 games. Meanwhile, an upper-body injury shelved Okposo six games.
In other lineup news, an upper-body injury sidelined forward Marcus Johansson. Sabres coach Ralph Krueger said Johansson is day-to-day.
Johansson enjoyed a stellar outing in Tuesday’s 3-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings, ending a 14-game goal drought and adding an assist.
“It is definitely a pity to see (Johansson) injured, and he’s really disappointed, too,” Krueger said. “He had really a breakout kind of game where you thought, ‘OK, here we go,’ and he gets paused from injury.”
Notes: Prior to the game, Sabres owners Terry and Kim Pegula presented NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, former Sabres owner Tom Golisano and former minority owner Larry Quinn gold pucks for their “service and stewardship to Sabres organization.” … The Sabres scratched defensemen Zach Bogosian and Lawrence Pilut (both healthy). … The Sabres sent winger Scott Wilson back to the Rochester Americans before the game.