BUFFALO – The Sabres sent defenseman Mark Pysyk to Rochester on Friday before leaving for this afternoon’s road game against the Florida Panthers, a move that raised a few eyebrows.
The 2010 first-round pick played three games during his recall, skating more than 18 minutes in the last two outings, both wins. He scored the winning goal in Tuesday’s 4-2 win in Columbus.
Sabres coach Ted Nolan has repeatedly said while the decision is out of his hands, he believes the 23-year-old is ready for regular NHL duty.
Pysyk plays an efficient, steady game and rarely gets rattled. The Sabres, the NHL’s worst team, have been letting him perfect his game in the AHL for more than a year.
Underachieving veterans have been playing instead of Pysyk most of this season. He practiced Friday in Buffalo before skating for the Americans hours later.
Pysyk might return after the trade deadline Monday if the Sabres deal a defenseman.
The demotion means defenseman Nikita Zadorov could play this afternoon. The Russian has sat three games since showing up late to a meeting Sunday morning. Nolan wouldn’t confirm Zadorov’s return.
In injury news, center Tyler Ennis (lower body) didn’t practice Friday but accompanied the team to Florida.
“I know he’s getting closer, but we’ll wait and see,” Nolan said.
Defenseman Tyson Strachan practiced Friday after dealing with an infected cut earlier this week.
“Spent a few days doing nothing,” he said. “That’s pretty tough to do for guys like us.”
Strachan will likely sit out today.
Count Nolan as a fan of Jaromir Jagr, the legendary 43-year-old winger the Panthers acquired from New Jersey on Thursday.
Jagr, who has 716 goals and 1,784 points in 1,530 games, should make his Panthers debut this afternoon.
Nolan believes Jagr’s arrival could boost the Panthers’ playoff hopes.
“You see a guy like Jagr, growing up and watching him in his early days, he was by far one of my favorite players I got to watch,” Nolan said Friday inside the First Niagara Center. “To see him still have that touch on a young team, the Florida Panthers are a young team that needs some proper leadership and direction to get them in that next hump, it’s a great move.”