Devon Levi has played 10 games for Rochester. ©2024, Micheline Veluolu, Rochester Americans

After assignment by Sabres, Devon Levi thriving in Rochester: ‘It’s been great’

ROCHESTER – In the minors, far away from the glaring lights of the NHL, goalie Devon Levi can simply focus on his development.

What’s going on in Buffalo, sure, he cares and pays attention. But his feet are here with the Americans. He’ll worry about winning games for the Sabres when his next opportunity materializes.

“The pressure situation is different here from there,” Levi told the Times Herald after making 32 saves in Wednesday’s 4-1 loss to the Belleville Senators. “So it’s more of an opportunity to kind of just focus on yourself and not have to worry about all the other stuff that’s going on. So (it) definitely takes away the challenge of outside noise.”

On Wednesday, as the Sabres eked out a 3-2 win before 21,105 fans in Montreal, Levi’s hometown, about 2,000 spectators watched him play in Blue Cross Arena.

On Jan. 4, in the Sabres’ previous visit to the noisy Bell Centre, he enjoyed perhaps his finest outing in the big leagues, making 32 saves in a 6-1 victory over the Canadiens.

Levi, however, has started just two NHL games since that memorable night. As Sabres goalie Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen solidified his grip the No. 1 job, he mostly sat on the bench.

The rookie, of course, must play regularly, so on Jan. 28, the Sabres assigned him to the AHL for the third time this season. His earlier stints totaled three games. His current one might last for months.

Over the past three weeks, Levi, 22, has earned his most consistent action all season, starting eight of the last 10 games, including five straight at one point.

“This stretch right now is like a playoff pace, the games just keep coming at ya, and those are all great learning lessons for him to go through,” said coach Seth Appert, whose Amerks host Belleville again tonight.

Levi hasn’t played this often since last year, when the Sabres utilized him in seven of their final eight games after he left Northeastern.

“Consistency and playing time,” Levi said of what he has found in Rochester. “It’s a little bit easier to find consistency in your game. I think I have an opportunity here to … play a lot, just gain more experience. It’s been great, just enjoying playing and just enjoying being with the guys.”

Levi, who has played 20 games for the Sabres this season, has quickly emerged as one of the AHL’s elite netminders. The prospect performed dynamically in Monday’s 2-1 road win against the Toronto Marlies, making 52 saves, including 20 in the third period and five in overtime.

“He absolutely stole two points for us,” Amerks center Mason Jobst said.

In 11 contests with the Amerks, Levi has compiled a 6-3-2 record with a 2.53 goals-against average and a .926 save percentage. If he had played enough games to qualify among the league leaders, that gaudy save percentage would rank fourth.

In the hallway outside the dressing room about 25 minutes after Wednesday’s loss, Levi looked relaxed and sounded happy as he talked about coming to the minors and explained what makes the Amerks a unique group.

“Apps does a really good job at creating an environment that everybody wants to be in,” he said. “Come to the rink, work hard but also have fun. I think it’s a really unique environment in the sense that everyone gets along so well, and that starts from top to bottom.

“Coaching staff’s put in place great leadership for the guys. It starts from the older guys all the way down the group. So I think that everyone is just on the same page. Everyone is here to win, and I think that unitedness helps everyone have a good time.”

Appert said Amerks forward Jiri Kulich, one of the Sabres’ top prospects, is day to day with an upper-body injury. The Czech has scored a team-high 17 goals. He has missed the last three games.

The Sabres finish their two-game road trip Friday against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

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