BUFFALO – Thanks to center Jack Eichel’s upper-body injury, Sabres coach Phil Housley leaned on Evan Rodrigues heavily throughout Monday’s 3-1 loss, skating him a career-high 22 minutes, seven seconds.
Rodrigues, 25, had never even cracked the 20-minute mark in his previous 113 NHL outings.
Expect Rodrigues to see plenty of action again Thursday against the Florida Panthers.
Eichel, who skated only four shifts before leaving Monday’s tilt against the New York Islanders, did not practice this morning inside HarborCenter. Housley did not have an update on Eichel because the Sabres’ leading scorer was talking to the team’s medical staff early this afternoon.
Housley still believes Eichel is day-to-day.
Without Eichel, Rodrigues skated at center today on the No. 1 line between Sam Reinhart and Jeff Skinner, a spot he occupied some of Monday’s contest.
“I like the way that line played in the third period,” Housley said inside KeyBank Center. “There was a lot of different combinations, obviously, with Jack being out.”
The speedy Rodrigues offers the Sabres plenty of versatility. His offense, however has been limited.
In 34 games, Rodrigues has compiled two goals and 11 points, including just one assist in the last eight contests.
“(Rodrigues has) been used in a lot of different capacities – power play, penalty kill, moving up and down the lineup,” Housley said. “That’s what he brings to our team. The next stage is just his contributions offensively and trying to finish and go to the net hard. He’s doing all the right things right now. Hopefully that translates into production.”
Rodrigues has pumped 23 shots on net since scoring his last goal, so he has been generating some chances.
“It’s when the chances don’t come that you start to worry,” Rodrigues said. “I’m getting my chances, I’m getting a lot of shots. The opportunities are there. It’s just a matter of bearing down now and finishing those opportunities. I think I’ve done that over the last five, six games.”
In other news, rookie defensemen Lawrence Pilut practiced with Zach Bogosian today, meaning he could return Thursday after sitting out two games as a healthy scratch. Nathan Beaulieu might be the odd guy out.
The rest of today’s lines from left to right:
– Conor Sheary, Vladimir Sobotka and Tage Thompson
– C.J. Smith, Johan Larsson and Kyle Okposo
– Remi Elie, Casey Mittelstadt and Jason Pominville