BUFFALO – When Thomas Vanek sat out practice as a maintenance day Friday, interim Sabres coach Ron Rolston thought his leading scorer would play today against the New Jersey Devils.
“Coming back this morning, he still was sore,” Rolston said earlier this afternoon inside the First Niagara Center.
Vanek (upper body) will sit today, although Rolston believes it’s just a short-term injury. The slick winger could return Sunday in New York versus the Rangers.
Meanwhile, rookie Brian Flynn will make his NHL debut this afternoon. It appeared Vanek might be hurt Friday night when Flynn was summoned from Rochester.
The 24-year-old, who will play the wing today, was arguably the Americans’ biggest surprise this season, scoring a team-high 16 goals and 32 points in 45 games.
“He is a great kid, a lot of character, good speed, really smart hockey player,” Rolston said. “I’m sure he’ll have some anxiety, too, to his play early on. But I think you’ll see him adapt really quickly to the pace and just doing other things we want to do.”
Flynn was woken up from a nap at 5:30 p.m. Friday and informed by interim Amerks coach Chadd Cassidy he had been recalled.
The Massachusetts native calls himself “a responsible two-way” player.
“I think some of the strengths are I think I’m quick,” Flynn said. “I can use my speed, and hopefully I’ll be able to chip in a little secondary scoring.”
Having Rolston, his coach most of this season with the Amerks, could help his transition.
“I’ve had him most of the year and been developing pretty well underneath him,” Flynn said. “He’s taught me a lot. The systems and things like that are familiar.”
It’s not clear where Flynn will play. He enjoyed some success earlier this year beside center Kevin Porter.
Flynn has never even attended an NHL training camp. However, he played in Sabres’ scrimmage with the Amerks in January, scoring a goal.
“A lot of (teammates) have treated me extremely well since I got here,” Flynn said. “I think playing in that scrimmage definitely helped out.”
A concussion recently sidelined Flynn four games.
In other lineup news, winger Marcus Foligno will return after a one-game benching. Rolston plans to play him with Cody Hodgson and Jason Pominville. Tough guy John Scott will sit.
“We know what Marcus can do,” Rolston said. “You saw it last year, and I saw it in Rochester. He just needs to get back to that game and be focused on that game. When he’s playing that game, he can be a dominant player in this league. Sometimes maybe you just need that wakeup call, ‘Hey, maybe I’m not doing the things I need to.’”