BUFFALO – Through parts of five NHL seasons, Sabres defenseman Riley Stillman has bounced around a bit, playing 140 games for three teams. A young player like him has spent much of his career simply trying to survive and conform to the coach’s and organization’s expectations, Don Granato said.
“Through that process, you’re accumulating a lot of experience but you’re playing to almost not make a mistake because you’ve moved around a little bit,” Granato said this morning in KeyBank Center. “I watch and I see him that he’s got a great foundation and base of experience, and now we’d like to turn his attention to, ‘OK, what does this mean? This means you’re now ready to do more at the NHL level.’”
Stillman, who was acquired Monday in a trade with the Vancouver Canucks, intrigues his new coach. Not only does he beef up the Sabres’ depth, Granato sees a player capable of reaching a higher level in a hurry.
“There’s more within him that he can get to in a short time,” he said.
Granato said the 6-foot-1, 196-pound Stillman, 24, fits the mold of other players the Sabres have recently acquired.
“We’re able to take advantage of the situation, we can add a player now with rosters increasing that gives us something to add a little more grit,” he said. “Somebody that has some experience, still has an appetite for more as a young guy.”
Immigration issues have held up Stillman’s arrival, so he won’t play tonight against the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Sabres expect the Canadian to arrive Wednesday.
Right now, he has a non-roster designation, so the Sabres, who are at the 23-man limit, don’t have to make a move. They can expand the roster following Friday’s trade deadline.
Naturally, Granato can’t wait to see his new player up close.
“I watched enough of him,” he said. “I like his compete, high compete. Appetite to be really aggressive, physically aggressive.”
Stillman played in a similar system that emphasized aggressiveness under coach Joel Quenneville with the Florida Panthers early in his career, so there’s familiarity. Still, Granato understands it will take him time to adjust to his new team.
“Time’s of the essence here with the season where it is, limited practice time,” he said. “But he has it in him to play the style we want, which is really nice. And I also think when you watch these players, you can see areas where they can make real quick improvements to their own game.”
Check back later for more. Fresh off a terrific 49-save effort in Friday’s 3-1 win over the Panthers, goalie Craig Anderson will start tonight. Meanwhile, defenseman Rasmus Dahlin, who’s day to day with a lower-body injury, will miss his second straight game.