BUFFALO – Early last season, Sabres winger Scott Wilson earned a coveted assignment beside Pittsburgh Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby.
But the gig didn’t last long for Wilson, a speedy bottom-six forward known more for his checking abilities.
“I played a little bit with Sid and I kind of changed the way I played,” Wilson said Sunday inside KeyBank Center. “That’s not what they were looking for.”
Later in the season, Wilson received another plum opportunity to showcase his talents on a top scoring line, this time beside Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel.
Wilson, who played 20 games during the Penguins’ run to their second straight Stanley Cup victory, was ready for it.
“I finally figured it out in the playoffs playing with Malkin and stuff that I just got to play the same way, get them the puck and they’ll get it back to you,” Wilson said. “It kind of all settles itself.”
That duty helped prepare Wilson, 25, for his occasional assignments on a scoring line this season. While Wilson mostly skates on the third or fourth trio, he has acquitted himself well when Sabres coach Phil Housley promotes him.
During the Sabres’ recent 3-0 road trip, Wilson enjoyed a three-game point streak, skating about 15 minutes a night at left wing beside center Ryan O’Reilly and Sam Reinhart. In Saturday’s 4-2 win in Boston, Wilson scored his third goal and utilized his speed down the wing to create Benoit Pouliot’s winning goal.
“I’ve been able to adapt, and it’s obviously nice being able to play with those guys, it makes it a little easier,” said Wilson, who was acquired from the Detroit Red Wings on Dec. 3.
In Sunday’s 5-4 home loss to Colorado, the Sabres’ first game without top center Jack Eichel, Wilson played with center Evan Rodrigues and Reinhart, the new second line.
With Eichel sidelined indefinitely by a high right ankle sprain, Rodrigues, who switched back to the wing last week, could remain at center. That might create opportunities for Wilson to play bigger minutes on a scoring line.
“Being a versatile player, there’s not too many guys in the league that can play with the top guys on the team and also play on the fourth line, play those minutes,” Wilson said. “I’ve been working on my PK, too, and I’ve gotten a good opportunity here with regards to that, so that’s definitely something I take pride in, also take pride in playing up and down the lineup.”
Wilson said he finally feels settled in with the Sabres following a whirlwind 44-day stretch earlier this season in which he played for three teams.
“I went through the process twice, in Detroit a little bit,” Wilson said of acclimating. “I was only there for a short stint (17 games), couldn’t really settle in, and then it obviously does take a little time with a new team. But I’m feeling the last little bit … settling in has helped.”
Notes: The Sabres, who host the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight, had Monday off. … Canisius College product and former Sabres forward Cory Conacher is in his second stint with the Lightning. … Former Sabres center Derek Roy has been named an alternate captain for Team Canada’s Olympic entry at the Pyeongchang Games.