BUFFALO – Center Kyle Criscuolo left a pretty good gig to join the Sabres.
The undrafted Harvard product enjoyed a terrific rookie season in 2016-17, scoring 17 goals in the AHL and winning a Calder Cup with the Grand Rapids Griffins.
Leaving the Detroit Red Wings organization to sign a two-year contract with the Sabres on July 1 “was really tough,” he said.
“The people were great to me, the organization was great to me, they gave me a chance out of school,” Criscuolo said this morning inside KeyBank Center after earning his first NHL recall. “I mean, it was definitely a tough decision, and ultimately I had to go with my gut.”
Criscuolo’s gut told him the Sabres offered a special opportunity.
“They understood how I play and how I want to play,” he said. “I think they did a good job of knowing what kind of player and person I am and what I want to bring to the team. I think what they said to me was pretty convincing that they want to put me in spots they think I can be effective.”
That spot today was between Jordan Nolan and Zemgus Girgensons. With the Rochester Americans, Criscuolo has been pivoting C.J. Smith and Hudson Fasching.
The 5-foot-9, 172-pound Criscuolo, 25, has five goals and team-leading 11 points in 14 AHL games this season.
After Wednesday’s 3-0 home win against the Binghamton Devils, Amerks coach Chris Taylor informed Criscuolo and defenseman Casey Nelson the Sabres needed them.
“It’s obviously a long road to get here,” Criscuolo said. “I’m excited to be here. I’m going to think about it maybe in a couple weeks. But right now, I got to focus on the game tomorrow.”
Officially, Sabres coach Phil Housley said Criscuolo’s status for Friday’s game in Detroit will be decided later.
“He brings a lot of energy,” Housley said. “He uses speed well. He’s an effective player.”
Wingers Nick Baptiste and Matt Moulson practiced as spares today.
The Sabres recalled Nelson, who has played 18 NHL games, because defenseman Taylor Fedun will be sidelined six to eight weeks after suffering a lower-body injury in Tuesday’s 5-4 overtime loss in Pittsburgh, Housley said.
Fedun stayed on the bench late in the game.
“He was trying to work through it,” Housley said. “He wanted to be a part of the team. It’s good to see him try to gut it out for a little bit.”
Housley also said defenseman Justin Falk had a maintenance day today.
Check back later for more, including a full story on Criscuolo.
Update: The Sabres sent Baptiste back to Rochester this afternoon.