BUFFALO – Over the past three weeks, the Sabres have taken a different approach to winger Tage Thompson’s development.
Instead of sending the youngster to the AHL, they’ve kept him and scratched him seven out of the last nine games, including four straight.
But they don’t want Thompson, 21, to sit for too long, so they’ve occasionally been working him in.
In Thursday’s 6-5 overtime win in Montreal, coach Phil Housley thought the play of the Sabres’ fourth line, which he said has been “very, very good,” dipped a little bit.
So Thompson will replace Zemgus Girgensons beside center Johan Larsson and Patrik Berglund for this afternoon’s tilt against the Vancouver Canucks inside KeyBank Center.
“It’s just a matter of getting Tage in and getting some games now here,” Housley said.
The 6-foot-6, 205-pound Thompson has compiled one assist in nine outings this season. Housley said he has patiently waited for his opportunity, spending time with coaches after practice.
“He’s a terrific teammate,” Housley said. “He comes to work every day, he does extra to try to get himself prepared. He’s part of culture. He fits right in with our group.”
Housley said he wants Thompson, a key piece from the St. Louis Blues in the Ryan O’Reilly trade, to “get back to what made him make the team.”
“He was a very physical guy, he was using his speed, he was attacking the game, he was shooting the puck,” Housley said. “He’s got to be battle ready. That’s one of the things, when he’s at his best, he’s a force out there. He uses his speed, he brings a physical element on the forecheck and he goes to the net hard.”
Housley said goalie Carter Hutton, who relieved Linus Ullmark on Thursday, will start this afternoon.