BUFFALO – Zach Bogosian slipped into town under the radar last month. High-scoring winger Evander Kane and ace defenseman Tyler Myers garnered most of the attention in the Sabres’ blockbuster trade with the Winnipeg Jets, allowing the defenseman, the No. 3 pick in 2008, to quietly adjust to his new team.
“It’s kind of how I like it,” Bogosian said Thursday following practice inside the First Niagara Center. “I wanted to come here and work hard, show my worth to the team.”
Bogosian’s worth a lot to the Sabres right now. The 24-year-old has been skating huge minutes, filling the giant void dealing Myers created for the NHL’s worst team.
“I like where it’s going,” Bogosian said. “I like … playing the big minutes. You train hard for that.”
The Massena native has averaged 26 minutes, 35 seconds of ice time in 12 appearances. He played a whopping 30 minutes, 35 seconds in Wednesday’s 4-3 shootout loss in Toronto, nine games after skating a career-high 32 minutes, 23 seconds Feb. 19.
“That’s huge,” Sabres coach Ted Nolan said about the minutes. “I mean, he’s a big man that is like a big workhorse, and one thing about workhorses, you can’t take it easy with those guys, you just work them. That’s what he is, he’s a working-class defenseman that can log a lot of minutes.”
Nolan added: “Right now, he’s like a wily old vet. He’s a young guy, too.”
The 6-foot-3, 225-pound Bogosian played plenty of minutes with the Jets, skating about 22 each contest. But he hasn’t played this much since his days as a junior star with the Ontario Hockey League’s Peterborough Petes.
“My pro career, I’ve had games where I’ve played 25 or 30, but not as consistently,” said Bogosian, who left Saturday’s game after blocking an Alex Ovechkin shot. “I feel good. It takes a little while just to get your wind the first few games, but I’m used to it now.”
Still, Bogosian, who moves well and possesses an edge, knows he must be smart. He tries to pace himself and “play the game that’s in front of you.” He was paired with Andre Benoit before skating beside Mike Weber on Wednesday.
“Sometimes you’re going to be able to jump in the rush a little bit more, and other times you’re going to have to play some shutdown D,” he said. “You just got to try to play the game that presents to you that night.”
Of course, jumping over the boards so often allows Bogosian to get into a groove.
“You’re more engaged in the game, more focused on what’s in front of you,” he said. “I feel like I’m a better player when I’m playing that way. I’ve really enjoyed it.”
Bogosian felt “pretty good” after Wednesday’s game. Other nights, however, skating 24 minutes feels like 30, he said.
“It varies,” Bogosian said. “It’s a long season. You just got to make sure you take care of yourself and you’re ready to play at a high level every night.”
Beyond the minutes, Bogosian has meshed well with his new teammates.
“I think he’s a major, major piece to this organization moving forward,” Sabres center Matt Ellis said. “He’s been a great influence around here and he’s a great hockey player.”
So far, Bogosian has four assists with the Sabres. Nolan immediately awarded him regular power-play duty, an assignment he didn’t have in Winnipeg. Bogosian scored nine goals in only 47 games as a rookie in 2008-09 with the Atlanta Thrashers and had a career-high 10 scores in 2009-10, so he has some offensive upside, although not as much as Myers.
Bogosian won’t worry about Myers, however.
“I think he’s a great player and he’s doing well in Winnipeg as well,” he said. “As far as trying to fill a hole or do a certain role, I’m just trying to play my own game and make my mark that way.”
Speaking on WGR on Thursday, Sabres president Ted Black said the Sabres won’t wear their third jerseys again next season. The jerseys, which have gold on the front, were panned by critics and the team’s rabid fan base.
Black said this market has “third jersey fatigue.” There are no plans for a new third jersey.