BUFFALO – Brendan Guhle is no longer the impressive rookie getting a long look before going back to junior. Suddenly, the Sabres defense prospect, the 51st overall pick in June, has a real chance to be on the opening-night roster in nine days.
“Definitely there’s an opportunity,” said Guhle, who will play his fourth preseason game tonight. “There’s some injuries now, whatnot. I’m not looking too far ahead of myself.”
Four notable defensemen – Zach Bogosian, Josh Gorges, Jake McCabe and Chad Ruhwedel – are injured. With Bogosian and Gorges week-to-week, the Sabres could need an extra body or two next week.
Guhle, thanks to his poise and smooth skating, might stick around. He can play nine games before the first year of his entry-level contract kicks in.
Naturally, Sabres coach Dan Bylsma wouldn’t commit to keeping the youngster.
“We’re in an injury situation right now where he’s in the lineup tonight,” he said. “There’s a good chance he’ll be in another one. Don’t tell him that, though, please.”
Guhle just wanted to play one exhibition game during training camp.
“It’s crazy,” he said. “A year ago today I would’ve never envisioned this. It’s pretty crazy to think.”
How did a youngster who could make an NHL team out of training camp about two months after his 18th birthday last until the end of the second round? Guhle isn’t sure. Playing in Prince Albert, a small town in Saskatchewan, probably didn’t help.
“That could definitely be part of it,” Guhle said. “We don’t have an airport there or anything.”
Guhle said some teams at the NHL Scouting Combine told him they wanted to pick him in the first round.
In other lineup news, the Sabres will dress their top two lines tonight, meaning rookie Jack Eichel will make his home preseason debut against the Toronto Maple Leafs inside the First Niagara Center.
“It’s another game,” Eichel said. “It’s my first one at home, so I’m excited about it. It should be different. Playing at home, the crowd’s behind you. We should use that to our advantage. We’ve done pretty well on the road so far. We want to come in here and show the fans what we’ve been up to and there’s a lot of positives on our team and it should be a lot different than last year.”
Eichel will center Matt Moulson and captain Brian Gionta. Ryan O’Reilly will center Evander Kane and Tyler Ennis.
“This is the first time we’ve had what will most likely our top six out there in a game,” Bylsma said. “We’re getting closer to a full lineup.”
The rest of the lineup is below. Goalie Robin Lehner will start and likely play the entire game. Nathan Lieuwen will back him up.
– Nick Deslauriers, David Legwand, Marcus Foligno
– Evan Rodrigues, Cal O’Reilly, Sam Reinhart
Guhle, Carlo Colaiacovo, Matt Donovan, Cody Franson, Rasmus Ristolainen, Mike Weber
In other injury news, Bylsma said winger Patrick Kaleta (lower body) could practice Wednesday. Defenseman Bobby Sanguinetti (lower body) has been skating on his own and progressing, Bylsma said. He might be able to practice soon.